What is the Role of an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

By Lauren Abraham

nurse taking care of patient

Pursuing a career in the field of nursing can be very rewarding. Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of nurse practitioners is projected to grow 31 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. For these reasons, now is a great time to pursue a nursing career.

An acute care nurse practitioner (ACNP) provides specialized care in order to stabilize patients with critical needs and prevent further complications. Some of their duties include ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, educating patients and family members about acute or chronic illnesses, prescribing medications and managing care for critically ill patients (“Acute Care Nurse Practitioner,” n.d.).

Becoming an ACNP

So, how does one become qualified to be an acute care nurse practitioner? Grand Canyon University’s MSN degree with an emphasis in adult-gerontology prepares nurses to care for and educate the growing adult and elderly population.

Experienced registered nurses can enroll in the online MSN to learn advanced practice nursing care in complex, acute and critical care settings. They will learn advanced theories and practices related to all areas of direct acute care of gerontology patients. At the end of the program, students complete a capstone project in which they choose an area of focus in their study and develop a plan to improve an aspect of the field.

According to Ruth Skinner, GCU’s ACNP faculty lead, GCU’s MSN program is unique for several reasons. In addition to the convenience of an online degree program for students who are also working in the field, students have the opportunity to perform skills in an all-day skills lab, including central line insertion, arterial line insertion, chest tube insertion, intubation, lumbar puncture, suturing, and incision and drainage.

Am I a Good Fit for The ACNP Program?

“The acute care nurse practitioner program is great for experienced nurses who have worked in the hospital. Although all types of nursing experience is helpful, intensive care and emergency room experience is the most beneficial,” Skinner explained.

Combining courses in advanced health assessment, clinical diagnosis, procedural skill acquisition and care management of adult and geriatric acute care patients, GCU’s ACNP program prepares students to make a difference in the lives of the elderly.

“The program contains all the information you will need to be successful; however, as a graduate-level program, students are expected to be self-motivated and participate in their own learning,” Skinner said. While the program is online, students must complete a certain amount of clinical hours, so Skinner recommends that students be proactive in planning the completion of those hours.

Upon earning this degree, individuals are equipped to work in a variety of settings.

“Acute care nurse practitioner students can practice in multiple specialties treating patients with acute, subacute and exacerbation of chronic illnesses,” Skinner said. “They can be employed in multiple areas, including hospitals and skilled nursing facilities.”

The future is bright for acute care nurse practitioners. In pursuing an online degree at GCU specializing in adult-gerontology, students will be equipped to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Grand Canyon University’s College of Nursing and Health Care Professions offers degree programs to meet the demand for highly qualified healthcare professionals. To learn more about an education at GCU, contact us today!

Written by Lauren Abraham, a junior majoring in communications at GCU.


  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Educational Requirements. (n.d.). Retrieved from learn.org/articles/Acute_Care_Nurse_Practitioner_Job_ Duties_Career_Outlook_and_Educational_Requirements.html
  • Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners. (2015). Retrieved from bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm

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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