What is an Ambulatory Care Nurse?

An ambulatory care nurse provides patient care outside of a hospital.

These healthcare professionals specialize in helping those suffering from ailments achieve healthier, independent lives.

Ambulatory care nurses provide short-term healthcare (often lasting less than 24 hours) to high volumes of patients.

Most sessions are short is because patients do not require admission to a hospital for overnight stay.

During this time, they advise patients on their health and assist those suffering from an illness or injury.

Essentially, they focus on maximizing preventative care so patients have the best possible outcomes.

This helps reduce unnecessary hospital visits that overburden healthcare facilities and the healthcare system.

By providing outpatient care they quickly address patients’ medical concerns.

Due to the short-term treatments these nurses provide, it’s common to have a busy work schedule.

However, working outside of a hospital setting also means a more stable schedule than hospital nurses (depending on work).

Ambulatory care nurses diagnose ailments, aid in pain management, and give health advice to patients suffering from chronic injuries or illnesses.

They also do telephone triage, perform case management, and provide medical screenings.

These healthcare professionals are specialists and focus on helping patients find ways to manage their lives.

They educate patients on ways to work with and around their disabilities and discomforts.

As a result, patients lead more healthy, mobile, and active lives.

The next section provides detail on what ambulatory nurses do.

It also presents examples of various roles ambulatory nurses play depending on their work.

On a final note, ambulatory care nursing is a multi-faceted, expansive, and complex profession.

Therefore, this article doesn’t cover all aspects of ambulatory care but provides an overview of the topic.

What Do Ambulatory Care Nurses Do?

Because ambulatory care nursing is a multi-faceted profession the responsibilities and tasks nurses perform vary depending on their focus and work setting.

For example, nurses working in a clinic may assist walk-in patients, monitor various patient vitals, answer questions and draw labs.

They also do med refills (based on facility protocol), obtain authorizations from insurance companies, and fill out PPW for providers.

Some ambulatory care nurses that work directly with patients monitor and address complicated diagnoses, chronic diseases, acute illnesses, disabilities, and end-of-life needs.

As a result, these medical professionals spend a lot of time performing examinations and educating patients on their health.

They may also work under the supervision of a physician or surgeon to help patients that need advanced care.

Ambulatory care nurses working in a doctor’s office have their responsibilities.

This might include assisting the doctor with his/her schedule, working with insurance companies, sanitizing examination rooms and medical instruments, and managing office supplies.

Finally, ambulatory care nurses working in telehealth services provide health monitoring and guidance over the phone or the internet.

As a result, they work closely with the patient to discuss their health and address concerns.

In turn, the patient avoids the hospital, doctor’s office, or clinic and those facilities provide better timely care to their present patients.

Ultimately, the responsibilities and patient care these healthcare professionals provide depend on the institution, business, or organization they work for.

Some ambulatory care nurses work closely with patients while others provide supplementary care to physicians and/or clinics.

The following list provides numerous responsibilities and tasks ambulatory care nurses perform.

However, not all ambulatory care nurses perform the same duties.

Work Responsibilities:

  • Telephone triage
  • Educate patients on their health
  • Monitor patient vitals and condition
  • Update, manage and maintain medical records
  • Perform diagnostic tests and exams
  • Provide follow-up care
  • Administer medication and treatment plans
  • Ensure patient health and safety before being released
  • Collaborate with other healthcare members and teams
  • Supervise and monitor CNA’s
  • Work under the supervision of a physician or advanced practice nurse
  • Advise patients in ways to develop a healthier lifestyle and work around their disabilities
  • Provide emotional support to patients suffering from a severe injury or illness
  • Educate patients about their ailments and help them psychologically cope with their problems.

By receiving assistance from ambulatory care nurses, patients spend less time visiting hospitals or similar healthcare facilities.

As a result, hospitals provide better care to their existing patients in a timely manner.

Ultimately, this reduces the burden of the patient and the healthcare facility, allowing for a smoother operating healthcare system.

If you’re interested in learning more about ambulatory care, this thread from Allnurses.com provides amazing discussions!

Also, consider visiting the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing for all things related to ambulatory care.

Where Do Ambulatory Care Nurses Work?

In terms of work location, ambulatory care nurses work in a diversity of settings outside of the hospital.

This includes healthcare facilities, call centers, physician offices, community clinics, and various organizations.

Because ambulatory care nurses work outside of a hospital setting, they work in an individual or collaborative capacity providing patients with individualized care and treatment plans.

They also work in with doctors and medical professionals to help patients achieve the best results.

Not only must these nurses understand their patient’s ailments and help them find ways to alleviate their limitations, but they must also be caring and compassionate.

This is because ambulatory care nurses work with individuals who are emotionally sensitive about their needs.

Therefore, their ability to provide proper medical information and emotional care is essential.

Work Settings and Environments

  • Ambulatory Surgery
  • Call Centers
  • Clinics/Specialty Clinics
  • Community Health Centers
  • Government Agencies and Departments
  • Health Maintenance Organizations
  • Home Health and Hospice
  • Non-Acute Surgical and Diagnostic Settings
  • Telehealth Services
  • Physician Offices
  • Preferred Provider Organizations
  • Schools and Universities
  • Urgent Care Centers/Clinics

As a result of the patient protection and affordable care act (2010), a new occupation within the ambulatory care specialization was developed.

This job is known as care coordination and transition management.

These medical professionals act as an integral part of the relationship between the consumer and the healthcare agencies, providers, and businesses.

Ultimately, their goal is to ensure adequate patient care throughout the individual’s healthcare process.

How to Become an Ambulatory Care Nurse

To become an ambulatory care nurse, you must first become a licensed registered nurse.

With that said, registered nurses are eligible to work in ambulatory care after learning their degree and becoming licensed.

However, many ambulatory care services prefer experienced registered nurses with years of training and work experience.

Therefore, spending time in a hospital setting and developing your skills will significantly improve your odds of getting hired.

Another important factor to consider is obtaining ambulatory care nursing certification.

This nursing certification can be obtained through the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing.

To qualify nurses must have at least two years of experience in the nursing field.

They must also have acquired 2,000 hours of clinical practice in an ambulatory care setting and have at least 30 hours of continued education.

Once you have gained the experience and training necessary, it’s time to take the certification exam and get certified as a professional ambulatory care specialist!

Necessary Skills

  • Experienced training as a registered nurse
  • Excellent interpersonal communication
  • Great assessment skills and clinical judgment
  • Ability to assess complex problems and serious conditions


Ambulatory nursing is a diverse, complex, and expansive profession that offers many outpatient care opportunities for experienced registered nurses.

Those who enter this field must be proficient at work, excellent communicators, highly collaborative, and independent.

They must also possess excellent decision-making and analytical skills to address unexpected situations and find solutions.

As healthcare expands, the demand for highly skilled ambulatory care nurses will continue to grow.

Working as an ambulatory nurse can be highly rewarding for both the nurse and the patient.

By providing care to those in need, ambulatory nurses gain the satisfaction of helping others.

They also improve their patients’ lives and give them a happier and healthier lifestyle.

This profession is ideal for experienced registered nurses who want to work outside a hospital but still provide direct patient care!