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 a 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
Median Salary (2018) $107,030 (for nurse practitioners)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 36% (for nurse practitioners)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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 the 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 practice, 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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • The George Washington University

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

    Popular programs at The George Washington University:

    • Master

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  • Capella University

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    Popular programs at Capella University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

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  • Purdue University Global

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  • Grand Canyon University

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  • Southern New Hampshire University

    Southern New Hampshire University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Southern New Hampshire University:

    • Master

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  • Northern Illinois University

    Northern Illinois University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Northern Illinois University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

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  • Northcentral University

    Northcentral University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Northcentral University:

    • Doctoral

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  • Regent University

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    Popular programs at Regent University:

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    • Master
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  • Penn Foster High School

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  • Herzing University

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