What Does an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Do?

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A smiling adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner speaks with a patient.

Nursing professionals who are interested in an in-demand role, where they can meet the changing needs of adult patients, should consider becoming an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP).

Nurse practitioner jobs are projected to increase by 52% between 2020 and 2030, compared with just 8% growth for jobs overall, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). One reason for this projected growth is the nation’s aging population and its increasing demand for health care.

AGACNPs serve a broad range of needs, from education about disease prevention to treatment for urgent concerns like injuries and illnesses. They provide care for adults of all ages, offering services that address the medical needs of people as they get older.

For those interested in pursuing this in-demand and rewarding career, an advanced nursing degree — particularly one focused on adult-gerontology acute care — can provide the educational foundation to help achieve that goal.

What Is a Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who provide an array of acute, primary, and specialty care. Working independently or with a physician, they typically can provide many of the same services as a doctor but at a lower cost and with a more holistic focus.

While the scope of an NP’s work varies by state, many of these advanced practice nurses write prescriptions as well as order and evaluate diagnostic tests. Other tasks can include assessing patients and developing treatment or health management plans.

NPs can select from a variety of practice areas as a specialty, including adult-gerontology acute care.

What Is the Role of an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners provide many of the same services as other NPs, often with a focus on treating adults who have conditions that are complex but largely short-term. They typically treat acute conditions experienced by people as they age. AGACNPs can provide other types of services as well, including advising patients about healthy habits and providing palliative care.

What Do AGACNPs Do?

AGACNPs monitor complex injuries and illnesses and design treatment plans, working to stabilize patients and prevent future complications related to their condition. They address short-term concerns, such as ear infections, serious burns, and sprained ankles. They also treat concerns related to longer-term conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart failure, or diabetes.

Professionals in this role also can work in administrative, teaching, and research capacities.
Depending on the state in which they practice, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners may be permitted to work independently, or they may be required to partner with other health care professionals. Additionally, like other NPs, AGACNPs typically have the authority to write prescriptions and administer and review tests. Other tasks can include the following.

  • Conducting treatment follow-ups
  • Monitoring the effects of prescribed medications
  • Referring patients to medical specialists
  • Recording patient medical histories
  • Assisting with community health policies

Where Do AGACNPs Work?

Many AGACNPs work in acute care, intensive care, or trauma units, while others practice in outpatient clinics and long-term care facilities. Often their work at these facilities requires them to be on call and to work nontraditional hours, including nights and weekends.

How Do You Become an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

Becoming an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner requires an advanced level of nursing education that includes both classroom and clinical work. AGACNPs also must meet licensing and certification requirements.

Subject Area Expertise Required for AGACNPs

AGACNPs generally need advanced knowledge in health- and science-related subjects. The following are among the subjects of study for those pursuing this career.

  • Diagnostic reasoning
  • Health assessment
  • Health care policy
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Statistical procedures
  • Treatment of acutely ill adults and older patients

Skills Required for AGACNPs

A variety of skills can assist AGACNPs in administering quality care for adults and older individuals. Among the skills that AGACNPs generally need are:

  • Attention to detail — To ensure they are identifying all of their patients’ health issues and thoroughly addressing their concerns
  • Communication skills — To assist in working with patients, families, and medical professionals to identify and treat health care concerns
  • Critical thinking — To diagnose complex health conditions and decide on the appropriate course of action
  • Empathy — To guide their actions in providing personalized care
  • Leadership — To fulfill their duties in an advanced-level nursing role
  • Resourcefulness — To help them find the answers they need to identify and treat patients’ conditions
  • Time management — To work with multiple patients, often in back-to-back appointments, while also performing the other duties of the AGACNP role

The Path to Becoming an AGACNP

To become an AGACNP, nursing professionals need to pursue an education that provides the appropriate knowledge and trains them in the essential skills required for the role. They also need to meet certification and licensing requirements. Following is the typical path to becoming an AGACNP.

Earn a BSN

NP programs typically require applicants to hold a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degree. Some programs offer students who have a non-nursing bachelor’s the ability to earn their BSN at an accelerated rate. Registered nurses (RNs) with an associate degree may complete an RN-to-BSN program.

Become an RN

Requirements for state RN licensing vary. In most cases, applicants must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) before seeking an RN license through their state board of nursing.

Complete an AGACNP Program

Master’s- or doctorate-level nursing degree programs can provide aspiring NPs with advanced nursing knowledge and skills. While either degree currently can qualify individuals for NP careers, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has recommended that doctoral degrees be the standard for advanced practice nursing. Doctorates may become the requirement for NP preparation in the future.

Those pursuing a career as an AGACNP should select an AGACNP graduate program. Another option for students who already hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree is to enroll in an AGACNP certificate program.

Pass a National AGACNP Certification Exam

Nursing professionals typically need to pass a national certification exam to qualify for state NP licensing. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) offer national certification for adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners.

Obtain a State NP License

Licensing requirements for all NPs vary as determined by each state’s nursing board. Generally, however, AGACNPs must hold an RN license, a graduate-level degree, and national NP certification.

Pursue an In-Demand and Rewarding Career

As nursing professionals who provide essential care for an aging population, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners are in high demand. Nurses who are ready to pursue a role as an AGACNP would do well to explore Bradley University’s online nurse practitioner programs.

With MSN, Doctor of Nursing Practice, and post-master’s certificate AGACNP programs to choose from, you’re sure to find an option that meets your educational needs. These fully online programs offer flexibility and convenience to fit with your work schedule and other commitments.

Discover how Bradley University’s online AGACNP programs can help you achieve your nursing leadership goals.


Recommended Readings

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse Practitioner Specialties: Types of Nurse Practitioner Roles and Responsibilities

When Will a DNP Be Required for Nurse Practitioners?


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, AACN Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing

American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, ACNPC-AG (Adult-Gero.)

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “Are You Considering a Career as an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?”

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “The Path to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner (NP)”

American Nurses Credentialing Center, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGACNP-BC)

Indeed Career Guide, “What Is an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner?”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

WebMD, “What Is a Nurse Practitioner?”