Why enroll in an acute care nurse practitioner program online?
Practice in versatile settings
Gain diverse, in-field clinical training that will give you the real-world experience you need before you graduate.
Complete specialized work with the latest technologies
Learn the latest in the field of advanced practice nursing via a flexible, online format featuring a blend of live classes and engaging, asynchronous coursework.
Improve your clinical skills
Develop clinical skills related to managing acute and complex health conditions.
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What does an acute care nurse practitioner do?
An acute care nurse practitioner (ACNP) combines advanced nursing skills, medical knowledge, and critical thinking to deliver high-quality care in acute care settings. The primary difference between ACNP and FNP (family nurse practitioner) roles lies in their areas of specialization and the patient populations they serve. Those wishing to serve a broader population may find online FNP programs of more interest.
An acute care nurse practitioner job description would include duties like:
Assessment and diagnosis
After completing one of the available online acute care nurse practitioner programs, you will have the knowledge to perform physical examinations, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and make clinical judgments to diagnose medical conditions accurately.
Treatment and management
Upon completion of your acute care nurse practitioner program online, you will have the knowledge to develop and implement comprehensive treatment plans for patients with acute and critical conditions. You will know how to prescribe certain medications, therapies, and interventions to stabilize patients, manage symptoms, and prevent complications.
Depending on the facility and their scope of practice, hired graduates from online ACNP programs may be expected to perform certain medical procedures, such as inserting central lines, placing arterial lines, performing intubations, and assisting with various other invasive procedures.
Acute care nursing involves educating patients and their families about their conditions, treatment options, and the importance of adhering to a prescribed care plan. Nearly every acute care nurse practitioner’s job description includes providing information about medications, lifestyle modifications, and post-discharge care instructions.
Acute care nurse practitioner program requirements
Admission requirements for online ACNP programs vary by school, but applicants must hold a license as a U.S. registered nurse (RN). Most online acute care nurse practitioner programs require you to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited college or university. Most schools prefer a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. However, this isn’t always a requirement.
Online acute care nurse practitioner programs usually ask for a statement of purpose with evidence of personal characteristics and goals that align with the desire to succeed in nursing.
Acute care nurse practitioner program requirements often comprise courses which hone both clinical and critical skills, similar to doctor of nursing, or online DNP programs. If this mix of clinical and critical interests you, another available option includes psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, or online PMHNP programs. Both of these types of programs cover topics similar to the acute care nurse practitioner programs online and could work well as alternative options. If you are looking for a broader advanced nursing degree, a master’s in nursing is another good option.
The best way to learn about the specific requirements for any given program is to request information from your schools of interest. Alternatively, visit their admissions pages to learn more.
How to apply
Research each acute care nurse practitioner program online to determine its specific application instructions.
Curriculum for acute care nursing
Some of the course topics you may cover if you participate in one of the available online acute care NP programs include:
Online ACNP programs require in-depth study of the physiological changes that occur in various acute and critical health conditions.
In online acute care nurse practitioner programs, learners study advanced pharmacological principles and drug therapies relevant to acute care settings.
Advanced health assessment
While learning nursing, those in online ACNP programs develop advanced skills in conducting comprehensive patient assessments, including history-taking and physical examination.
Advanced diagnostic reasoning
Online acute care nurse practitioner programs teach learners to interpret and analyze diagnostic test and lab results to make informed clinical decisions.
Advanced clinical skills
Online acute care NP programs help learners develop advanced clinical skills related to managing acute and complex health conditions. Managing acute and complex health conditions includes instruction about various procedures such as central line insertion, chest tube management, and more.
What can you do with an acute care nurse practitioner certification?
Acute care nurse practitioner jobs cover various medical specializations. Online master’s programs prepare learners to enter their chosen field with confidence. Roles available to those holding an acute care nurse practitioner certification include:
Hospital ACNPs provide comprehensive care to hospital patients by managing acute medical issues, coordinating care, ordering and interpreting tests, and making treatment decisions.
Critical care or emergency room ACNP
In intensive care units (ICUs) and emergency rooms (ERs), ACNPs manage critically ill patients by monitoring them closely, interpreting complex data, maintaining life-support equipment, and collaborating with multidisciplinary teams.
Teaching and education
ACNPs have the option to train future nurses and nurse practitioners in academic settings.
Research and quality improvement
ACNPs may choose to engage in healthcare research and quality improvement initiatives, helping to advance evidence-based practices.
Acute care nurse practitioner job outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job openings for nurse practitioners will grow 38% by 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations.Footnote 1 With many medical specialties, such as neurology, hematology, oncology, transplantation, and nephrology, available to graduates of online acute care nurse practitioner programs, acute care nurse practitioner jobs continue to grow as the healthcare industry does.
Acute care nurse practitioner salary
The acute care nurse practitioner’s salary remains competitive in an ever-expanding health and wellness market.
Nurse practitioners earn an average median wage of USD121,610 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.Footnote 2
Frequently asked questions
Acute care nurse practitioner jobs require specialized training and education to provide advanced nursing care to patients with complex acute and critical health conditions. ACNPs work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, intensive care units (ICUs), emergency departments, and specialty clinics.
Whether or not enrolling in an acute care nurse practitioner program online is right for you depends on your personal circumstances, learning preferences, and career goals. However, the rise in specialized medical treatment and intervention options suggests a positive acute care nurse practitioner job outlook.Footnote 3
The time it takes to complete acute care nurse practitioner programs online varies by school. It also depends on whether you enroll full or part time. However, online ACNP programs usually take two to five years to complete.
Family nurse practitioners can transition to acute care nurse practitioner jobs by completing additional education and training. Assess individual acute care nurse practitioner programs online to determine the additional training required for your specific situation. For more information, visit the official websites of the certifying organizations for the most up-to-date information on eligibility, exam content, and recertification.
The cost of online acute care nurse practitioner programs can vary widely depending on factors such as the institution, the duration, whether it’s a master's or doctoral level program, and whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state learner. It’s important to research the program you are interested in for specific program cost.
The pertinent acute care nurse practitioner certification depends on the certifying organization and the specific acute care specialty. Two well-known certifying organizations for acute care nursing are the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). These organizations offer certifications.