The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that by 2030, one in five Americans will be senior citizens aged 65 and older. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants will prove to be crucial in the coming years as projections show a growing shortage of MDs.
As advanced practice registered nurses, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AG-ACNPs), provide care to older adult patients with complex acute, critical, and chronic health conditions. The scope of their care extends through the entire adult age spectrum and across the wellness-illness continuum.
Daily Duties and Job Description for Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners
AG-ACNPs practice in settings where care requirements include complex monitoring and therapies, high-intensity nursing interventions, and/or continuous nursing vigilance.
AG-ACNPs assess and manage acutely ill patients within the inpatient/hospital setting and across hospital-to-inpatient settings, such as:
- Emergency departments
- Intensive care units
- Specialty labs
- Acute and sub-acute wards
- Specialty clinics
The patient population of the AG-ACNP encompasses individuals ranging from young adults (including late adolescents) to older adults, including the frailest elderly. The goal of the AG-ACNP is to provide patient-centered, quality care to the adult and older adult population with the goal of improving the quality of care and health outcomes.
Research shows that acutely ill patients remain a dominant group within the inpatient population. The addition of AG-ACNPs to inpatient settings has been shown to improve overall patient care and improve patient and family satisfaction.
Although the professional scope of AG-ACNPs varies according to their collaborative agreement with physicians and other members of the healthcare team, most of the time they can legally diagnose and treat medical conditions, provide direct patient management (including admission and discharge), and follow the patient into outpatient settings to ensure a successful transition after discharge.
Earning a Master of Science in Nursing – Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
All APRNs, including adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AG-ACNP), must complete a Master of Science (MSN) or post-master’s certificate program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) before they can sit for the appropriate national certification examination and qualify for state licensure.
Many MSN programs target traditional students who have completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and already hold a registered nurse (RN) license. However, non-traditional MSN programs are also commonplace, with many institutions offering programs such as these:
- RN-to-MSN programs, which allow licensed RNs with only an associate’s degree in nursing to complete their advanced degree at an accelerated pace
- Entry-level (also referred to as generic or accelerated programs) MSN programs, which are designed for students with a bachelor’s or graduate degree in a discipline other than nursing; offer both BSN and MSN components and prepare students for RN licensure
Many of today’s MSN programs also offer distance-learning and flexible scheduling opportunities to accommodate working nurses.
MSN – Adult-gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program Components
An MSN – Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner degree builds upon a student’s knowledge of nursing theory, research, nursing informatics, statistics, and ethics required to treat a demanding patient population.
Most programs emphasize three areas: critical care, emergency department/trauma, and cardio-pulmonary, thereby allowing students to achieve a broad education specific to the adult-gerontology acute care specialty.
The curriculum of AG-ACNP MSN programs prepares students to understand the acute, critical, and chronic aspects of selected diseases, which allows them to anticipate and manage a number of complex critical and acute episodic issues.
Many MSN programs in AG-ACNP allow students to specialize their graduate program in a specific area of medicine, such as:
- Internal medicine
Students may elect to focus their study in a specialized area of medicine through elective courses and specific clinical experiences.
The coursework of an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner MSN focuses on the full spectrum of the young adult to older adult care, allowing students to focus on the unique life stages that impact a patent’s across the entire adult age spectrum, particularly those with acute care needs.
Coursework in an MSN in AG-ACNP program includes study in:
- Principles of adult-gerontology acute care
- Advanced technologies and clinical decisions in acute care
- Advanced clinical decisions in adult-gerontology acute care
National Certification and State Licensure Requirements
Upon completing an MSN in AG-ACNP, graduates are eligible to sit for the AG-ACNP national certification examination through the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN).
Examination requirements vary according to each state nursing board’s licensing requirements.
Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Jobs and Salary Expectations
Certified and licensed nurse practitioners working in adult-gerontology acute care may work in acute and complex care practices, intensive care, post-operative, and critical care hospital units, where they diagnose and treat medical conditions and review conditions and treatment options with adult populations.
According to the 2011 American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) national nurse practitioner compensation survey, nurse practitioners in acute care earned a base salary of $96,580 and total compensation of $105,200. Nurse practitioners in adult care earned a base salary of $93,990 and total compensation of $98,160 during the same period.
The AANP also broke down salaries for nurse practitioners by practice setting, with those working in emergency rooms/urgent care settings earning a base salary of $101,580 and a total salary of $115,070.