The Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Role

An adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner with an elderly patient

Pursuing a career in the field of nursing can be extremely rewarding. Additionally, as of September 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners to increase by about 45% from 2020 to 2030—faster than average, and accounting for an estimated increase of 121,400 jobs in the field.1 Clearly, now is a great time to pursue a career in advanced practice nursing.

One growing role within the nursing field is that of an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP). What is an AGACNP? In a general overview, this role provides specialized care in complex, acute and critical settings for adults and geriatric patients. Keep reading to learn more about the adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner role and how you can become one.

What Is an AGACNP?

The role of an AGACNP is an important one, and these professionals have a variety of specialized skills used in their everyday work life. This skill set includes: 

  • Incisions 
  • Casting 
  • Splinting 
  • Intubation 
  • Lumbar puncture 
  • Central line catheter insertion 
  • Chest tube insertion 
  • Radiology interpretation 
  • Ventilator management

These professionals use their skill set to perform health assessments and diagnoses, prescribe medications and manage the care of chronic and critically ill patients.

This means that AGACNPs are not confined to working within a hospital; they often work with patients outside hospital walls to continue the management of the chronic conditions of the patients, filling a variety of roles within multiple settings.

It’s possible that as an AGACNP, you could care for a patient in emergency services first—then, as a diagnosis is made, you may begin to work with different departments within the hospital to provide the best possible care for that patient. This may include transferring patient care to an AGACNP in a different department, such as cardiology, if you are an emergency care AGACNP, or even an AGACNP in an outpatient medical office after discharge.2

What Settings Do AGACNPs Typically Work In?

There are many different settings in which an AGACNP can work, but some common ones include: 

  • Intensive care units 
  • Trauma units 
  • Acute care units 
  • Emergency room 
  • Surgical units 
  • Nursing home facilities 
  • Long-term acute care hospitals 
  • Inpatient or outpatient units 
  • Cardiovascular units 
  • Variety of specialty clinics

Outside of a hospital setting, AGACNPs can also work in specialty clinics or long-term care facilities. In these settings, is it most likely you will be monitoring patients to prevent any further complications and providing treatment plans focusing on improving patient health.3

It’s also important to note that AGACNPs often work non-traditional hours, including long shifts, weekends and nights. They are also often required to be on call during times they are not working.

What Are Other Types of Nurse Practitioners?

In addition to adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners, there are many other types of nurse practitioner careers that you can choose from. Some other popular pathways for nurse practitioner specialties are:4 

  • Family Nurse Practitioner: provides family-focused services to patients of all ages 
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner: similar patient demographic to that of an AGACNP, but provides care to those who suffer from chronic illness or need routine medical care 
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner: focuses on providing care to women of all ages 
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner: provides advanced care to those with psychiatric disorders, often together with primary care doctors and specialty providers 
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner: provides advanced care to ill and premature newborns, often in neonatal intensive care units 
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: focuses on providing care to patients from toddler age to young adult, and can choose to specialize further with a primary or acute care specialization

What Makes an AGACNP a Unique Role?

In an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner role, you will have the opportunity to care for and educate the growing adult and elderly population in a variety of settings. Within this patient scope, an AGACNP will see many different patients during a shift with a variety of different critical illnesses or acute traumas to provide care for. As an AGACNP, you may provide continuous care for your patients and may develop long-term relationships with them; while providing sporadic care in a fast-paced and exciting environment for nurse practitioners.

The Pathway To Become an AGACNP

To become an AGACNP, the first step you must take is to earn your undergraduate nursing degree. You can complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program or, if you’re already a registered nurse (RN), you can complete an RN to BSN program. 

It’s also possible to complete a bridge program if you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree in a different field. This is an accelerated program toward a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) that will further your nursing knowledge and clinical skills while building upon what you’ve already learned in a different undergraduate degree program. 

Next, you’ll have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) exam. This will allow you to then apply for RN licensure in the state you have chosen to practice in—an important step in the pathway to becoming an AGACNP.

After successfully obtaining RN licensure, you can apply to an MSN program. While looking for programs, make sure to check the requirements; some programs require you to have a couple years of critical care experience. Ideally, you’ll want to find an MSN degree program that fits your career goals, which in this case would be an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) MSN. While earning this type of MSN, your coursework will align with your goals and teach you about many topics, including the following: 

  • Managing the adult-gerontology patient 
  • Complications related to gerontology 
  • Disease detection 
  • Culturally relevant practices

In an MSN for Adult-Gerontology, you will also gain hands-on experience in the field in addition to coursework. This will help you to gain knowledge, practice and confidence as you approach the end of your studies and the beginning of your career.

Lastly, you’ll need to obtain national certification to practice as a nurse practitioner in your chosen state. This also needs to be specific to your patient population, meaning you should look for a certification specific to adult-gerontology. Additionally, you’ll also need to apply and receive your initial AGACNP licensure.

Which Path Should I Pursue?

Ultimately, you will need to decide which nurse practitioner specialty fits best with your personal and career goals. The adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner role is a good fit for those who enjoy a fast-paced environment, or those who already have experience working in a hospital—especially in intensive care units or emergency rooms. The future is bright for nursing, and this role will help you make a positive difference in the lives of patients.

Grand Canyon University’s College of Nursing and Health Care Professions offers a variety of both online and on-campus nursing degrees, including the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) MSN, that can help you meet the demand for highly qualified healthcare professionals. Click on Request Info at the top of your page to begin your journey today.


Retrieved from:

1COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on September 2021, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

2American Nurse, The role of adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioners in January 2022 

3American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Are You Considering a Career as an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner? in January 2022 

4American Association of Nurse Practitioners, The Path to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner in January 2022

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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