What Is an AGACNP?

An adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner is a specialized acute care nurse practitioner who cares for adult patients with critical conditions. Acute care nurse practitioners fill a critical gap in health care amid a persistent physician shortage. Nurses with experience and expertise in treating older adults and elderly patients will be particularly important as the baby-boom generation ages and lives longer, requiring more health care.

Definition of an AGACNP

Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners are health care professionals with intersecting specializations in acute care and geriatric care. As acute care providers, they typically work with patients experiencing complex critical, episodic or deteriorating conditions, rather than those who need routine and preventive care. The patient population for AGACNPs can range from young adults over age 13 to geriatric patients with impaired overall function. Other nurse practitioners may specialize in acute care for pediatric or family populations, geriatric primary care, gynecologic and obstetric care or any combination of specialties. As with all nurse practitioners, AGACNPs must earn a postgraduate degree and obtain national or state certification in addition to their registered nurse license.

What Does an AGACNP Do?

The acute care nurse practitioner scope of practice includes treating patients with acute and complex chronic illnesses or injury in a variety of settings, including emergency rooms, urgent care and tele-intensive care units. The job responsibilities of an AGACNP are varied and may include:

  • Assessing a patient’s immediate health situation.
  • Ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests.
  • Developing treatment plans.
  • Prescribing medication or medical devices.
  • Operating life-support systems.
  • Providing medical interventions, such as intubation, placing intravenous lines, or wound and injury care.
  • Managing patient pain.
  • Advocating for patients.
  • Communicating with patients and their families.

Acute care nurse practitioners often treat patients in their most vulnerable moments of illness or injury. Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners may have the additional responsibility of helping patients and their families throughout the last days of life. AGACNPs address not just the physical needs of their patients but also the mental health concerns of patients and often their families during difficult times.

Learn more about career options and salary outlook by reading “Nurse Practitioners Career and Salary.”

Where Does an AGACNP Work?

Most AGACNPs work in emergency room, trauma center and intensive care unit hospital settings. Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners may also work in urgent care centers, ambulatory or outpatient care facilities, rehabilitative care units, and hospice or palliative care services.

Because of the unpredictable nature of emergency care, AGACNPs working in emergency room and trauma units typically have shifts when they are on call. Outpatient and urgent care centers may have working hours closer to that of a standard doctor’s office, but after-hours and weekend work may be required.

Education and Certification Needed To Become an AGACNP

AGACNPs need both specialized education and certification to practice. To become an AGACNP, you will need to meet the following requirements:

Typically, it takes at least six years to become an AGACNP: four years to complete a bachelor’s degree and two years to complete a master’s program and certification exam. Many AGACNP graduate programs also require some experience working as a nurse prior to enrollment. You may apply for certification exams at any time after completion of your postgraduate degree.

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (AGACNP) vs. Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners (AGPCNP)

While the titles may look similar, there are several main differences between AGACNPs and AGPCNPs.

AGACNPs are acute care nurse practitioners who focus on treating illness and injuries that may be acute or terminal. They also:

  • Work in more fast-paced environments.
  • Tend to perform more invasive procedures, such as intubation, incision and drainage, or placing sutures and staples.

AGPCNPs are adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners who provide preventive and routine health care. They also:

  • Work in longer-term care facilities.
  • Diagnose and manage episodic or chronic health conditions.
  • Treat unexpected or deteriorating conditions.

Top Skills Needed for an AGACNP

In addition to specialized health care knowledge, there are several core skills for becoming an AGACNP. These include:

  • Making logical decisions quickly under pressure.
  • Assessing critical situations accurately and expediently.
  • Collaborating with other health care providers.
  • Advocating for patient rights.
  • Valuing a patient-centered care model.
  • Communicating effectively and patiently with diverse individuals and groups.
  • Balancing the needs and wishes of patients with those of their family members, particularly in terminal situations.

Successful AGACNPs need to be confident and comforting, compassionate and clear-headed. They are important sources of care for many patients, often during serious illness or at the end of life. Working with high-needs patients can be challenging, but for dedicated caregivers, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner can be a rewarding career choice.