What is a Subacute Nurse?

A subacute nurse provides care to patients requiring 24-hour medical care and monitoring due to an illness, injury, or medical condition.

These healthcare professionals typically work with individuals suffering from acute and chronic conditions.

As a result, subacute care is often considered a cross between acute and long-term care.

Patients who receive subacute care are usually in stable conditions but require extended nursing supervision.

This article explores what subacute nurses do, where they work, and how to become licensed subacute nurses.

What Do Subacute Nurses Do?

Subacute nurses care for a wide variety of patients requiring extended care due to acute or chronic health conditions.

It includes treating patients undergoing surgical procedures or severe or debilitating injuries.

They also help patients requiring respiratory care (breathing tubes and oxygen apparatuses) due to respiratory problems.

Subacute nurses will perform various duties while treating patients with different health conditions.

For instance, they’ll monitor patient vitals, administer medications, dress wounds, insert IVs, update medical records, manage equipment, help with daily living needs and assist other healthcare professionals.

In more sensitive care settings, subacute nurses treat patients who need enteral nutrition (feeding tubes) or blood transfusion care.

They’ll assist patients with mobility, pain management therapy, and support those with brain or spinal injuries.

As a result, subacute nurses are vital for helping patients recover from illness, surgical procedures, or medical conditions.

Subacute nurses work with a team of healthcare specialists to ensure patients receive the best medical care.

It includes psychologists, registered nurses, physicians, physical therapists, LPNs, and case management nurses.

They’ll also operate alongside other medical professionals specializing in longer-term patient care.

Subacute Nurse Responsibilities:

  • Monitoring the patient’s health and recovery process
  • Administering medications
  • Performing wound care
  • Dressing injuries
  • Inserting IV’s
  • Placing splints
  • Managing casts
  • Managing respiratory equipment
  • Operating feeding tubes
  • Assisting patients with daily physical activities
  • Updating medical records
  • Providing medical and healthcare advice to patients and families
  • Helping other medical professionals with patient-related care

And many other tasks related to providing long-term (over 24hrs) care.

Essentially, these healthcare professionals perform various tasks that center on acute and chronic care.

They assist patients with pain management, rehabilitation, emotional support, and education.

Necessary Skills

Subacute nurses must possess considerable skills to provide proper patient care and treat those with acute or chronic conditions.

It includes patience, organization and time management, excellent communication, and an educational foundation. 


Those working as subacute nurses must have incredible patience with individuals who need extended medical care.

Developing long-lasting relationships is essential since nurses may spend significant time caring for these individuals.

Nurses must also be comfortable performing their duties when not assisted by other healthcare professionals.

For instance, they may need to work with several patients daily.

Sometimes they may not receive additional assistance when helping patients recover on certain days or shifts.

As a result, patience and commitment play a significant role in providing high-quality long-term care.

Individuals with chronic conditions cannot perform various daily routines and chores.

The subacute nurse must support them to develop better autonomy and aid them until they can expand their capacities.

Organization and Time Management

Excellent organization and time management skills and the ability to multitask are highly beneficial.

As previously mentioned, subacute nurses may work with several patients daily with little or no support.

Good organization and time management skills make subacute care more accessible and manageable.

It enables subacute nurses to be more effective when operating in a busy healthcare setting or fast pace.

Excellent Communication

Exceptional communication skills are necessary regardless of the healthcare profession.

That said, it’s essential when treating patients with acute or chronic conditions.

Subacute nurses must communicate effectively with patients to meet their healthcare and personal needs.

They must also communicate well with other healthcare professionals working directly or indirectly with their patients.

It enables them to provide adequate support and ensure they understand the patient’s condition and requirements.

Educational Foundation

Subacute nurses must adequately understand how to care for patients with acute or chronic health conditions.

As a result, developing a foundation of knowledge regarding assessment, treatment, and proper procedures is necessary.

These healthcare professionals often spend years developing experience as registered nurses.

It enables them to understand the ins and outs of their profession and provide adequate subacute care.

Some nurses also obtain additional education and certification to prepare them for roles as subacute nurses.

Where do Subacute Nurses Work?

Subacute nurses assist patients with acute and chronic health conditions in various healthcare settings. 

It includes extended care healthcare facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, physical therapy offices, and subacute care units.

Subacute care may occur within a hospital or urgent care setting.

However, most care occurs outside a hospital environment in locations where patients receive long-term care.

It helps free up needed space within the hospital and reduces medical costs significantly as a result.

Subacute Nurse Workplace Settings

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Subacute care units
  • Special care housing facilities
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Physical therapy offices

How to Become a Subacute Nurse

There are numerous steps aspiring subacute nurses must complete to obtain their degree and work in this profession.

Firstly, you must obtain a two-year ADN or four-year BSN from a qualified nursing school to become a registered nurse.

Most healthcare facilities and non-entry-level nursing jobs prefer individuals with a BSN due to the additional education.

As a result, you may want to pursue a BSN, even if you obtain work after receiving an ADN.

1. Complete Nursing School

To qualify for nursing school, students must have a GED or diploma and join a college offering prerequisite courses.

Most colleges/universities require students to have a foundation of education before enabling them to join. 

After gaining entry into a university, students complete multiple prerequisite courses to qualify for a nursing program.

They must also maintain an excellent GPA to qualify.

Entering a nursing school may be challenging, depending on the academies you want to join.

Many programs have more students applying than seats available.

Students who apply may also have excellent GPAs, previous healthcare experience, and good recommendations.

As a result, many students apply to several nursing programs to obtain the best odds of getting accepted.

Once in the nursing program, students spend several years learning the ins and outs of the nursing profession.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN

At the end of the nursing program, students must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain their license.

The NCLEX tests students’ knowledge, understanding, and comprehension to ensure they’re ready for nursing jobs.

Students must also pay the state licensing fees and tests and complete a background check.

After completing the previous requirements, students receive their licenses and can work as registered nurses.

3. Obtain Work Experience

Obtaining work experience is essential for those who want to become subacute nurses.

You’ll want to spend several years in an acute or chronic care setting providing support and medical assistance to patients.

Developing these skills will prepare you for long-term patient care and rehabilitation careers.

You’ll also want to take continuing education courses geared towards acute care to expand your knowledge and expertise.

Once you’ve obtained adequate work experience, you may want to consider acquiring CCRN certification. 

4. Aquire Certification

Obtaining CCRN certification may not be necessary to get a career in subacute care.

However, it can provide adequate training, which will help you acquire better positions and receive more money!

It also demonstrates your understanding of critical care to potential employers.

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