Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Careers

What is an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

Acute care nurse practitioners are registered nurses that have specialization in managing patients with acute or serious chronic illnesses such as stroke. It is also common for these professionals to care for patients before and after they undergo surgery.

These professionals are often part of interdisciplinary medical teams and are tasked with anything ranging from caring for the needs of a patient to keeping detailed logs of patient care.

Regardless of what kind of patient acute care nurse practitioners are caring for, their conditions are often severe and likely to persist.

What is a Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

The job description of a pediatric acute care nurse practitioner is exactly the same as that of acute care nurse practitioners except that these professionals care for infants and children. Such nurses typically work in pediatric intensive care units, pediatric emergency rooms, pediatric operating rooms, or pediatric inpatient units.

Typically, pediatric acute care nurse practitioners specialize in children after getting their nursing degrees and are not forced to first pursue becoming adult acute care nurse practitioners.

What Does an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Do?

The job duties of acute care nurse practitioners are quite varied. One of the key functions includes assessing the health statuses of a number of patients. This might include taking the medical history of a patient or performing a physical examination on him or her.

After this, the acute care nurse practitioner may be expected to make a diagnosis or inform the rest of his or her team about some changes in the patient’s health or symptoms. For example, an acute care nurse practitioner may have to inform a physician if the patient is experiencing side-effects related to the medication that he or she is taking.

Acute care nurse practitioners are also expected to assist physicians during examinations, monitor highly specialized equipment, and remain calm and capable in moments of extreme urgency and danger. In addition, acute care nurse practitioners are qualified to administer a range of tests, such as x-rays.

Acute care nurse practitioners are also part of a team that is making treatment plans for each patient. Depending on how a patient is progressing along their treatment plan, the medical team might have to make adjustments according to new developments. They frequently must attend meetings and conferences in an effort to ensure each part of their team is current about all matters concerning their patients.

Acute care nurse practitioners may have nursing aides or other health-care professionals working under them. Not only is an acute care nurse practitioner expected to communicate with the rest of the health-care professional team, but his or her job is also to talk with the patient and his or her family and inform them how they can be of assistance in taking care of the patient and how the illness is expected to progress.

Acute care nurse practitioners are also expected to keep careful notes of these discussions. In many settings, acute care nurse practitioners must work during nighttime or they may have to be on-call from time to time.

Where Does an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Work?

Most acute care nurse practitioners work in hospitals or other inpatient settings and are a part of a large team that takes care of a patient. Common inpatient settings include emergency rooms, intensive care units, and operating rooms.

Yet, some of these professionals treat chronically ill patients in outpatient settings such as clinics, or colleges, and may even visit patients in their homes.

What are the Requirements to Become an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

Education Requirements

In order to become an acute care nurse practitioner, a person must first get a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. During this training, students learn, for example, biology, human anatomy and physiology, as well as microbiology. They must also take some general education courses in such topics as writing, history, and perhaps even foreign languages.

After receiving this degree, students must then earn a master’s degree in acute care nursing. During this two-year training period, students get plenty of hands-on clinical experience in taking care of people with acute illnesses like stroke or heart problems.

They also take approximately 40 credit hours of coursework in topics ranging from patho-physiology to epidemiology. When applying to a nursing school, students must make sure that their school of choice is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Otherwise the student cannot become licensed later on.

Licensure Requirements

In order to work as an acute care nurse practitioner, a person must first have an active registered nursing license. It is also required that during their education, the student must have taken classes in advanced physiology and pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology, and advanced health assessment. The candidate must also have worked in an acute care nurse practitioner setting under a direct supervision for at least 500 hours.

What are the Requirements for an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification?

After getting a registered nursing license and meeting all the requirements listed above, a candidate is allowed to take the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner board certification examination. Should the candidate pass this competency based exam, he or she will become Acute Care Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (ACNP-BC) for the next 5 years.

Continuing education (professional development) is required to maintain certification. For up-to-date and complete requirements for applying and maintaining acute care nurse credential you must visit American Nurses Credentialing Center website.

What Type of Personality Does it Take to Become an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

Able to Adjust to Different Schedules Easily

It is quite common for acute care nurse practitioners to have to work during irregular hours. A person who needs to go to bed at the same time every night would not be able to last long in this profession.

Not everyone is able to sleep well during the day time. Neither is it easy to work 12 or even 16 straight hours. Yet, some people enjoy the variety that this type of profession offers. They enjoy working long hours as it allows them to take more time off.

Being a Team Player

Acute care nurse practitioners work as members of large teams of health-care professionals. They must be able to lead and to be led. They must be willing and able to share, communicates constructively, listen actively, and remain respectful towards the other members of the team even in times of stress and disagreement.

Attentive to Details

An acute care nurse practitioner must keep careful notes of every detail of a person’s medical history, drugs administered to a patient, when doctors have seen a patient, and so on. A mistake in this profession can be fatal. That is why it is imperative that acute care nurse practitioner pay attention to every detail they encounter while caring for a patient.

High Tolerance for Stress

Taking care of sick people can be highly stressful. Patients can be in lots of pain and because of this, they may not be in the best of mood. The relatives of patients may also be depressed, stressed, and tired.

It is common for them to showcase and project these negative feelings when dealing with health-care professionals.

If a person wants to be successful in this field, he or she must learn not to take such outburst personally and to remain the kind, patient, and understanding person that others expect of members of this profession.

What is an Online Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Degree Program?

Many schools offer an option to take most of the theoretical classes online for their acute care nurse practitioner students. However, because this degree prepares students for real life patient care, it is important that none of these programs be hosted entirely over the internet.

It is typical for students to have to participate in, for example, simulated clinical learning experiences at the campus. The most obvious difference between online classes is that they lack the hands-on education that all acute care nurse practitioners must undertake. Instead, these courses focus more on theoretical aspects of the job.

Examples of classes that acute care nurse practitioners could take online revolve around topics that require a great deal of theoretical learning, such as ethics, pathophysiology, research methods and statistics, pharmacology, and professional issues.

How Much Does an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners made an average of $120,680 per year or $58.02 per hour in 2021. This salary tends to go up with experience.

Acute care nurse practitioners make different amounts of money depending on which part of the country they work in. For example, the salaries in Pennsylvania are particularly high.

What is the Job Outlook for an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the job outlook for nurse practitioners appears to be excellent. This is especially true if one is willing to work in either rural areas or big cities.

There is a shortage of these health-care professionals in many areas of the country and the employment opportunities for nurse practitioners is expected to grow 40% during the next ten years.

One of the reasons for this is that many people cannot afford good quality preventative health care. As a result, they often wait until they develop serious illnesses or their conditions deteriorate until they seek help.

What is the Difference Between a Family Nurse Practitioner and an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

The work of a family nurse practitioners resembles that of a general physician. In most states, these professionals are allowed to diagnose patients and write prescriptions, for example. If these nurses identify an acute or life-threatening diseases, they typically refer such patients to hospitals.

Acute care nurse practitioners, on the other hand, work mostly with patients with acute or severe chronic illnesses. They typically work as members of large, interdisciplinary teams and report to, for example, the head nurses of the team.

Family nurse practitioners, on the other hand, commonly work more independently although they often share an office with a physician.

There may also be differences in their educations. Family nurse practitioners typically have either a master’s or doctoral level education in nursing, whereas acute care nurse practitioners can have a bachelor’s or master’s in nursing.

What are the Cons of Being an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

  • You may have to work during the nights: The patients that acute care nurse practitioners look after are typically taken care of at all hours of the day. Thus, these nurses frequently work during the night.
  • You may have to be on-call: Although not all acute care nurse practitioner must be on call, some of them do. Typically, such nurses are asked to be call for one weekend each month or so.
  • Your work-sifts might be long and irregular: Eight hour shifts are still rare in this field. Most workdays last considerably longer.
  • You may have to work during holidays: Almost all the acute care nurse practitioners have to work during some holidays. Even so, these types of hectic schedules become less common as the nurses gain more seniority in the field.
  • Your work is likely to be stressful and difficult: Although every acute care nurse practitioner does his or her best to help their patients, not all of them can be helped. Losing patients can be mentally hard even for experienced nurses. Your patients are also never guaranteed to be thankful for your work. They might even blame you for their pain despite your best efforts to help them, for example.

What Careers are Similar to an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

Registered Nurses

If you enjoy a career in nursing but feel that the career path to become an acute care nurse practitioner is too long, you might want to consider a career as a registered nurse.

As a registered nurse, you can work in many different settings, such as hospitals or outpatient clinics. You can also have more control over the timing of your shifts. In order to become a registered nurse, you need to complete either an associate or bachelors’ degree in nursing.

Physician’s Assistant

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a physician assistant is $121,530 and the growth rate in this profession is 28% through 2031.

The average training of a physician’s assistant in only 27 months. These health-care professionals are trained to diagnose and treat illness and they are even allowed to prescribe medication to patients. Physician’s assistants typically work in a primary care setting.


People that are willing to go through the vigorous training of a medical doctor can benefit from a better salary and more independent work environments than acute care nurse practitioners. Medical doctors typically have to take certain pre-medical classes in such topics as biology, chemistry, physics, and anatomy.

After getting their bachelors, they take MCAT exam that is required by most medical schools and enter a 4-year medical program. After this, they choose an area that they want to specialize in and complete a residency specifically for this area of specialty. Getting accepted to medical school is hard and many specialty areas are very popular. Be prepared to study hard if you decide to take this route.

Related Reading

Further Reading

Featured Prorgrams Now Enrolling Students

Matching School Ads
Copyright © 2023 All Rights Reserved. Program outcomes vary according to each institution's curriculum and job opportunities are not guaranteed. This site is for informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional help.