What is an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

An acute care nurse practitioner (ACNP) is an advanced practice registered nurse specializing in critical/acute healthcare.

ACNPs provide specialized medical care for patients suffering from injuries or illnesses.

However, their discipline differs from chronic care, which provides long-term patient care and treatments.

Instead, ACNPs focus on short-term healthcare interventions to enable patients to operate independently and promptly.

ACNPs, perform from of medical and healthcare assistance to provide adequate care.

For instance, they screen patients, prescribe medications, and assist with rehabilitation.

The following section explores the duties, work setting, education, and career outlook of advanced care nurse practitioners.

What Do Acute Care Nurse Practitioners Do?

Acute care nurse practitioners hold advanced degrees in patient care.

As a result, they perform a broad range of healthcare procedures, treatments, and services.

Acute care nurse practitioners assess, diagnose and treat numerous medical conditions and ailments within their specialization.

These specialists review their patient’s medical histories to ensure they receive proper care and safe treatment.

They also screen for potential health issues, assist with rehabilitation, and educate patients about their condition.

ACNPs may prescribe medications to treat and manage illnesses/diseases related to their field in full-practice states.

Acute care nurse practitioners must always be at the forefront of their profession.

As a result, they routinely research the latest procedures to advance their knowledge and capabilities.

Where Do Acute Care Nurse Practitioners Work?

Acute care nurse practitioners work in various healthcare settings, from direct patient care to research and education.

Some occupational environments include hospitals, nurse practitioner offices, urgent care centers, and trauma units.

ACNPs also operate in nursing homes, research facilities, management, and academic settings.


Advanced care nurse practitioners diagnose and treat various ailments, injuries, and illnesses.

As a result, they receive extensive education and specialized training in acute care.

ACNPs possess an MSN or DNP degree and board certification.

Their education focuses on primary, acute, and specialty healthcare to ensure they have well-rounded field knowledge.

During their academic journey, ACNPs learn to properly assess, diagnose, and treat short-term treatment ailments.

It includes severe injuries and illnesses preventing patients from being stable and able to operate independently.

Becoming an advanced care nurse practitioner requires approximately six to eight years of education.

However, registered nurses with a BSN degree can obtain ACNP licensure within two to four years.

Finally, ACNPs must take continuing education regularly to maintain their license.

Schedule and Hours

The hours an advanced care nurse practitioner operates varies depending on their work setting.

For instance, ACNPs who operate independent offices/clinics may work Monday through Friday/Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm.

However, those in hospital settings may work morning, noon, or night and on various days to meet the facility’s needs.

How to Become An Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Aspiring acute care nurse practitioners must follow numerous steps to enter their profession.

The first step to becoming an ACNP is to join a college and pass the nursing school’s prerequisite courses.

Each university has specific prerequisite requirements.

However, most programs require math, science, biology, English, and other typical courses.

Students must also maintain a certain GPA average while taking prerequisites to qualify for the nursing program.

Once students complete the prerequisites, they can apply to a nursing program.

Students often apply to numerous programs because gaining acceptance is difficult in highly competitive schools.

It’s also essential to determine whether an ADN or BSN degree is preferable.

A BSN degree is necessary for those who want to become acute care nurse practitioners.

It provides a better education foundation, and the ACNP program requires nurses to possess a BSN degree.

Enter a Nursing Program

Those who gain acceptance into the nursing program must complete two to four years of education.

During the program, students learn various nursing skills.

It includes nursing concepts, principles and theories, medical terminology, pharmacology, and other essential information.

They also participate in labs and clinicals to develop their knowledge and gain hands-on experience.

At the end of the nursing program, students must take and complete the NCLEX-RN exam.

It ensures they have an adequate understanding of nursing and is necessary to obtain their license.

Obtain Work Experience

Many post-graduate educational institutions do not require work experience to participate in their programs.

However, it’s advised nurses obtain at least one to two years as an RN before applying for further education.

You’ll also want to determine the school’s provisions because some colleges have work requirements to enter the program.

When gaining work experience, it’s essential to gear your training towards acute/critical care.

It enables you to develop a basic understanding of the field and fundamental skills that will help you as an ACNP.

Join an ACNP Program

Depending on the college, some ACNP programs require experience in acute/critical care before applying to the program.

Most ACNP programs require two to four years of education and 500 – 850 hours of supervised clinical work.

In addition, students must decide between adult care and pediatric care specialization.

It enables them to center their education on providing care to individuals with different needs. 

Some universities offer online programs to provide registered nurses with additional paths to earn their MSN or DNP.

However, many universities require some on-campus education to ensure students receive adequate schooling.

Maintaining Your Nursing License

After completing the program, ACNPs must maintain their RN license and certification to continue practicing.

It includes taking regular continuing education courses, staying updated on the latest practices, and meeting state requirements for license renewal.

ACNP Program Advice

Tip: Some aspiring ACNPs work as registered nurses before returning to school to become acute care nurse practitioners.

It enables them to gain valuable work experience and training in the acute care field.

It also helps nurses determine whether they want to pursue this specialization further before investing in it financially.

By acquiring experience, you’ll have a basic understanding of acute care and can determine whether it’s a suitable career.

Finally, obtaining experience may help you get accepted into the program, especially if seating is limited.

Career Outlook

The nursing field appeals to many aspiring healthcare workers due to its high wages, job stability, and health benefits.

Some registered nurses earn six figures by working in high-paying states and pursuing the right specializations.

In addition, the nursing profession is relatively stable due to society’s neverending healthcare needs.

Nursing will always be in demand compared to other professions because people of all ages require medical care.

According to BLS.gov, the nursing profession will grow by 9% over the next decade.

However, the existing nursing shortage will likely grow resulting from retirement, an aging population, and education limitations.

Those who pursue nursing careers experience reliable work, increased salaries, and excellent health benefits.

These incentives help attract professional healthcare workers to combat the nursing shortage.

Unfortunately, insufficient educational programs and work stress make replacing existing nurses who retire or change careers challenging.