Adult Acute/Critical Care Nurse Practitioner: A Masters Specialty Area
Adult Care and Critical Care are areas that are highly specialized. With the ever-changing needs and complexity of client’s health care and shortage of healthcare professionals, the adult acute/critical care as a specialization evolved. ACNP is a master’s program that prepares a nurse for certification examinations and become experts in managing the health needs of those acutely and critically ill with multiple complex problems. The length of study depends mainly on the track of study whether part-time or full-time and thus ranges from 2-3 years and the program includes theoretical and clinical aspects. ACNP students receive academic and clinical training in areas such as:
- Advanced Pathophysiology
- Advanced Physical Assessment
- Differential Diagnosis
- Advanced Pharmacology – Clinical
- Patient Care Management
- Advanced Research
- Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
- Others, which may be school program specific
After completion of the program and other requirements, a graduate nurse may pursue a certification as ACNP. Certification is issued by the American Credentialing Center/ American Association of Critical Care Nurses (ANCC/AACN) as Adult Acute/ Critical Care Nurse Practitioner. Nurses who earn a master’s degree and certificate holder for the nurse practitioner in adult acute/critical care program are assigned to work with acute or complex care practices such critical care, post-operative care, and intensive care units in hospital, medical evacuation units, transport units, and specialty services such as oncology, trauma, general surgery, cardiology, internal medicine, transplant, nephrology and many others. The master’s educational preparation of these nurses place a strong emphasis on research and evidence-based practice. With this, the standards of practice are improved and more importantly, patients receive on the best care possible.
Aside from their expert assessment and management skills on acutely or critically ill patients in various settings, nurse practitioners of this specialty can legally diagnose, prescribe and treat medical conditions. In collaboration with the physician and other members of the healthcare team, ACNPs provide direct patient management from admission upto the time of discharge. And to ensure continuity of care and transition from discharge and complete resolution of transition needs, they may also follow up the patient in outpatient settings. It is however important to note that the structure and the scope of practice depends on the State where the nurse practitioner is working, agency policy and the collaborative agreement with physicians and other members of the healthcare team.
With the engagement of ACNP’s as a specialty in the healthcare arena, research has shown that it has helped provide a care of quality, decrease in length of stay, and improvement in patient and family satisfaction. Furthermore, the inclusion of these nurse practitioners in the health care team improves communication and overall patient care.
In the global context of health care and the roles of nurse practitioners in general, there are only a few countries that have clear policy and legislation on the practice of nurse practitioners. The countries that recognize this specialty role include the United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
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