One of the more critical nursing roles in modern health care is that of an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP). What is an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner?
The term describes a nurse practitioner (NP) who provides holistic care to adult patients, particularly older adults or those with age-related health conditions.
AGACNPs work in various settings, including hospitals and outpatient clinics, where they provide services ranging from preventive care to acute care management. Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners — and NPs in general — are increasingly vital as the population of the country continues to age. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2030, roughly 20% of Americans will be 65 or older. Recognizing the growing need for NPs who can provide this type of care, the medical community established the AGACNP certification in 2014.
Anyone interested in pursuing a career as an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner will need to earn a master’s degree in nursing. This degree program provides future NPs with fundamental knowledge and skills and paves the way for them to obtain the necessary certifications to achieve success as AGACNPs.
What Do Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners Do?
NPs deliver comprehensive medical care to various patient populations. In addition to diagnosing and treating medical conditions, NPs often focus on preventing disease and promoting healthy lifestyles. Their clinical expertise — and the personal touch they bring to care — has led to them becoming the preferred providers for millions of Americans.
For adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners, the focus shifts to providing holistic care to adult populations, specifically older adults with acute conditions or issues related to chronic health conditions.
Responsibilities of an AGACNP
The job of AGACNPs is twofold: intervention and prevention. They develop treatment plans for patients that focus on preventing or mitigating future health conditions, while implementing treatments to address acute issues and improve overall health.[Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]In this regard, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners have many responsibilities, including the following:
- Ordering, performing, and evaluating diagnostic tests, such as lab work or X-rays
- Prescribing medication and other treatments
- Diagnosing and treating chronic conditions, such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes
- Counseling and educating patients on lifestyle choices and disease prevention
AGACNPs collaborate with other medical professionals, from physicians to radiologists, across the continuum of care to provide a comprehensive health care experience.
Many AGACNPs work in tertiary care settings, such as hospitals, providing medical services in different departments, including emergency rooms and intensive care units. They may also work in specialty clinics and long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, where the focus is on preventive services and health management.
Nurses in hospitals and other acute care facilities often work nontraditional hours, including nights, weekends, and holidays. Depending on the setting, they may also need to be on call. Those who work in clinics or physicians’ offices typically keep normal business hours and have relatively stable schedules.
How Do You Become an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?
After exploring what an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner is, the next question is how to become one. AGACNPs and other NPs are clinical experts who can also bring a personal touch to medical care. Developing the necessary skills to become an AGACNP takes years of education and experience, along with earning one of two certifications.
Aspiring AGACNPs and those pursuing other NP roles must have a bachelor’s degree and a registered nurse (RN) license. Once they have earned these credentials, they can pursue an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing. A master’s program provides foundational coursework in subjects such as advanced health assessment and pharmacology, along with essential clinical experience.
A master’s or other postgraduate degree is also required to pursue certification.
Clinical experience allows NPs to gain practical knowledge and skills and develop crucial interpersonal skills. NPs are generally expected to provide compassionate care, so experience working directly with patients is crucial.
According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), many AGACNP graduate programs require students to have at least one to three years of experience working as an RN in an acute care setting before they can enroll.
Becoming certified is an essential step on the path to becoming an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. NPs must earn one of two certifications to practice:
The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification. To be eligible, applicants must hold an RN license and an advanced degree, and have completed coursework in physiology/pathophysiology, health assessment, and pharmacology. The certification is valid for five years and can be renewed by meeting certain requirements, including continuing education.
The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) provides the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification-Adult Gerontology. Eligibility requirements are similar to those for ANCC certification, and the certificate is also valid for five years, with continuing education requirements for renewal.
Over the course of their education and training, AGACNPs develop a diverse skill set. AGACNPs should possess the following skills, among others:
- Communication. AGACNPs and other NPs need to communicate effectively with patients and other health care providers to ensure that treatment plans are followed and patients receive the best possible care.
- Interpersonal. NPs work directly with patients and their families and need to bring a level of compassion and empathy to treatment.
- Leadership. NPs often work in supervisory positions and need to be able to manage and direct other members of the nursing staff.
What Is the Salary and Job Outlook for an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?
Thanks to a combination of high salaries and elevated demand, the job market for adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners and other NPs is extremely promising.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for NPs was $111,680 as of May 2020.
Similarly, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) reported that AGACNPs earned a median annual income of $113,000 in 2020, including base salary, bonuses, and incentive payments.
Meanwhile, PayScale indicated that the salary range for AGACNPs is between $88,000 and $113,000 as of May 2021.
Demand for NPs is at an all-time high. According to the BLS, employment of NPs is projected to grow by 52% from 2019 to 2029. It expects more than 24,000 job openings each year for NPs during the same period. Growth will largely be because of an increased demand for health care services from the country’s aging population and a greater emphasis on preventive care, a need that AGACNPs are uniquely qualified to fill.
Increasingly, NPs will also be needed to help fill the gaps in health care due to the ongoing shortage of primary care physicians, particularly in underserved and rural populations.
In spite of the sometimes heavy demands of the nursing profession — demands that the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly exacerbated — the level of job satisfaction for nurses remains extremely high. According to a survey of more than 20,000 nurses by Medscape, more than 90% of all nurses, including 95% of NPs, said they were glad they entered the profession.
Help Meet a Growing Health Care Need While Preparing to Advance Your Career
An NP’s expertise is greatly needed to fill the nation’s gaps in primary care and address the needs of an aging population. Those interested in pursuing this rewarding and vital career should consider exploring Hawai‘i Pacific University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program. For those looking to advance their nursing career, the program provides a comprehensive education, including an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner concentration. Learn more about how the program’s features, such as fully online coursework and smaller classes with more accessible faculty, can help working nurses take the next step in their career.