Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for acute care nurse practitioners. Get the facts about education and licensing requirements, job duties and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Family Nurse Practitioner degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is An Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

Acute care nurse practitioners work with patients suffering from chronic injuries and illnesses. For example, their patients may have suffered a heart attack or be in shock. Nurse practitioners are highly trained nursing professionals with a master's degree in nursing. They are qualified to provide direct medical care. They can see patients, assess their condition, diagnose them and prescribe medication and develop a treatment plan. They can also order tests or procedures. As an acute care nurse practitioner, they may perform all of these tasks with patients who require acute care. As part of their duties they may oversee registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and nursing assistants and ensure the patient care plan is followed, and they may also meet with the patient's family to discuss their care and things the family may need to do to assist with the patient's recovery after they're discharged.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing
Licensure or Certification Registered nurses must be licensed; board certification might be required
Key Responsibilities Examine patients and maintain patient records; assess patient health and make diagnoses; order diagnostic testing and analyze results; prescribe medications and treatments
Job Growth (2014-2024) 35% for all nurse practitioners*
Median Salary (2015) $98,190 for all nurse practitioners*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Does an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Do?

As an acute care nurse practitioner, you'd aid and monitor patients who suffer from critical and complex health issues. You'd evaluate the health of the patient, identify and treat acute medical issues, encourage disease-preventing behaviors and care for those who require long-term care. You could work in specialty clinics, emergency departments, trauma units, hospital inpatient units, intensive care units, rehabilitation units and long-term care facilities.

It would be your responsibility to keep patients in stable condition, avoid complications, manage other health issues and contribute to their general well-being. You'd also teach patients to cope with their health issues.

What Training Do I Need?

A bachelor's degree in nursing is typically required for admission to a master's degree program with an acute care nurse practitioner track. In these programs, you'll study pathophysiology and learn to care for patients with complicated illnesses and multiple health issues; typically, you'll gain hands-on practice in providing this care during the clinical portion of the degree program.

How Do I Become Certified?

A graduate degree from an accredited acute care nurse practitioner program and RN licensure could qualify you for certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Some states require certification for advanced practice nurses, and many employers prefer it.

The certification exam is likely to cover advanced physical/health assessment, advanced pharmacology and advanced pathology. You must also be knowledgeable about diseases, health promotion, preventative measures and differential diagnoses.

What Might I Earn?

According to PayScale.com's survey of acute care nurse practitioners, they earned between $80,933 and $122,558 as of October 2016. The median salary for all nurse practitioners was $98,190 as of May 2015, as reported by the BLS.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Medical professionals such as occupational therapists, physician assistants and registered nurses all have aspects of their work that are similar to what acute care nurse practitioners do. Like acute care nurse practitioners, occupational therapists and physician assistants need a master's degree. They see patients, perform medical tests, order tests, evaluate the patient and diagnose their condition. They then develop a patient care plan. These aspects of their job are identical to the work of a nurse practitioner; however, an occupational therapist focuses on working with helping patients with injury, illness or disability to gain or regain basic functions, and physician assistants can specialize in any field of medicine. Registered nurses may work with nurse practitioners and implement the patient care plan a nurse practitioner has ordered. They will provide direct person care to the patient and monitor the patient's progress. Registered nurses will also alert the nurse practitioner to any concerns they have about the patient's recovery.

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