How Do I Become an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

Individuals wishing to become acute care nurse practitioners should first earn a bachelor's degree in nursing, become a registered nurse and earn a graduate degree or post-graduate certificate in acute care for nurse practitioners. These professionals work in hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers. Schools offering Family Nurse Practitioner degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Acute care nurse practitioners, also referred to as critical care specialists, evaluate and assist chronically and critically ill patients. Acute care nursing opportunities are often available in emergency rooms, clinics, intensive care units, and rehabilitation centers. Acute care nurse practitioners need undergraduate and graduate education in nursing and generally need two to three years of experience in a critical care setting. Some employers may be willing to train registered nurses without acute care experience but who do have graduate education and experience.

Important Facts About This Career

Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in nursing; licensed as registered nurse; prior clinical nursing experience
Common Courses Advanced assessment and diagnosis; advanced pharmacology/pharmacotherapeutics; pathophysiology and collaborative management; advanced acute care
Continuing Education Continuing education is required to maintain professional certification
Degree Levels Master's degree

Educational Requirements

Most employers require that acute care nurse practitioners have graduate-level nursing education in acute care. Registered nurses (RNs) with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing can pursue the Master of Science in Nursing with an acute care nurse practitioner specialization; concentrations may be available in trauma and ER care, heart and lung treatment, and critical nursing. Those who already hold a graduate degree and want additional certifications to work in critical care nursing often pursue a post-master's certificate in the field. Coursework often includes studies in managing disease, medicines used in critical care, common procedures in acute care, patient evaluation, and interpretation of patient films.

Certification and Licensing

Employers require that acute nurse practitioners be licensed registered nurses. Depending on the employer, a critical care nurse may need to have a state-specific advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) credential. Acute care nurse practitioners may need state authorization to prescribe medications. Advanced cardiac life support certification may also be required. Nurses who have completed 500 hours of clinical practica, hold a current nursing license, and have completed graduate work from an accredited nursing college qualify to sit for the voluntary American Nurses Credentialing Center's Board-Certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner exam.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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Popular Schools

  • South University

    South University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at South University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Certificates

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  • George Mason University

    George Mason University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at George Mason University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • The George Washington University

    The George Washington University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at The George Washington University:

    • Master
    • Certificates

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  • American University

    American University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at American University:

    • Master

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  • Capella University

    Capella University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Capella University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

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  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

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  • Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

    Saint Mary's University of Minnesota responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

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  • Colorado State University Global

    Colorado State University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Colorado State University Global:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • The University of Scranton

    The University of Scranton responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at The University of Scranton:

    • Master
    • Certificates

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  • Saint Joseph's University

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