America’s population is aging. A report by Business Insider says every baby boomer in America will be 65 or older by the year 2030, and 1 of 5 Americans will be at retirement age. With the aging process comes new health concerns, including greater demand for managing chronic health issues. And yet, as this demand for health care increases, many nurses are leaving the workforce. The combined aging population and provider shortage will put a strain on the U.S. health care system.
While this seems daunting, it presents increasing opportunities for those in gerontological care, such as adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AGACNPs). These providers play a critical role in caring for the aging population. To learn more about what an AGACNP does and the skills needed for success, students should consider online BSN to DNP programs.
What Does an AGACNP Do?
All nurse practitioners have specialty areas. Many nurse practitioners specialize in family care, others in pediatrics, or in psychiatric mental health care. An AGACNP is a nurse practitioner whose education and experience are focused on adult-gerontology acute care. AGACNPs make up about 7% of all nurse practitioners in the U.S., according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
AGACNPs primarily provide direct care to older adults. Their duties might include the following:
- Evaluating and assessing patient conditions
- Running diagnostic tests
- Providing medication management
- Developing treatment plans
- Advising on nutritional and lifestyle changes that promote wellness
- Referring patients to specialists as needed
Because AGACNPs work closely with elderly patients, they have unique expertise in addressing health concerns that are common among this population. Some examples include dementia, arthritis, and diabetes. AGACNPs focus on acute care, which means they often work in intensive care settings managing acute, complex patient conditions. They also work in assisted living or long-term care facilities, hospitals, and private practices.
AGACNPs may serve as primary care providers for elderly patients, especially those who need assistance managing chronic conditions. In this way, AGACNPs can help mitigate the shortage of nurses and doctors, addressing the influx of elderly patients requiring care.
AGACNP Key Skills and Personality Traits
To succeed as an AGACNP, a number of skills and traits are required. Some of the most prominent examples include:
- Deep nursing background. AGACNPs should have strong clinical and assessment skills, as well as experience interacting directly with patients.
- Decision-making. AGACNPs need to be prepared to make critical decisions under pressure, often developing effective treatment plans for patients who may need immediate attention.
- Collaboration. AGACNPs must be prepared to work closely with other providers on the care team. This can sometimes involve specialists such as oncologists.
- Empathy and compassion. Aging can be difficult, not just physically but emotionally. The successful AGACNP will be able to provide care with empathy and understanding.
- Organization. Being able to manage a number of patient files and records at the same time is crucial to succeeding in this role.
- Communication. Any nurse practitioner must be skilled at communicating clearly with their patients, patients’ family members, and other members of the care team.
How to Become an AGACNP
What an AGACNP does day to day requires advanced medical knowledge. The basic trajectory for becoming an AGACNP includes education, licensure, and relevant certification.
Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
The first step to becoming a nurse practitioner is obtaining licensure as a registered nurse (RN). To hone foundational skills and to become eligible for licensure, aspiring nurses should enroll in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.
Become a Registered Nurse (RN)
The next step in the process is to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and obtain an RN license. At this point, the graduate is free to begin practicing as a registered nurse.
Pursue Advanced Education
From there, the nurse can pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, or they can bypass the MSN and take their education a step further with a BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice (BSN-DNP) degree. Opting for a doctoral-level degree allows nurses to gain an even more advanced level of nursing expertise, and can lead to better opportunities and higher salaries.
Nurse practitioners must pass the NCLEX-NP exam and become certified as nurse practitioners in their states. State-by-state requirements can vary.
To specialize in adult-gerontology, nurse practitioners can pursue further certification, specifically seeking the acute care nurse practitioner certification-adult gerontology (ACNPC-AG, entry level) or the adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP-BC) certification.
AGACNP Salary and Job Outlook
PayScale reports that the annual median AGACNP salary was about $96,000 as of November 2021. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides data for all nurse practitioners, who had a median annual salary of $111,680 as of May 2020. Note that specific salaries may vary by experience and education levels, geographic location, and other factors.
The BLS projects a job growth rate of 52% for nurse practitioners between 2020 and 2030, which compares favorably to the 8% average growth projected for all professions. This is largely due to the increasing demand for health care services, the growth of the aging population, and widespread nursing and doctor shortages.
Begin Your Journey to Becoming an AGACNP
In the face of an ever-changing health care environment, what an AGACNP does every day plays a deeply consequential role. In the coming years, AGACNPs will be a significant asset to the aging population, working in hospitals, long-term care centers, and private practices.
A good way to hone the skills needed for this role is to enroll in Hawai‘i Pacific University’s online BSN to DNP program and its Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Concentration. With courses such as Fundamentals of Acute Care and Advanced Pharmacology, you can gain the core nursing skills that will enable you to find success as an AGACNP.