To become an acute care nurse practitioner one must first earn a degree in nursing from a two to four-year program and be certified as a registered nurse (RN). They then gain experience in the acute care setting, usually two to three years, and return to school to achieve an advanced degree. A Master’s degree in Nursing (MSN) or higher education, such as a doctorate, in nursing is required.
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The Master’s programs are given through a two-year program. About 40 credit hours of classes is required to achieve this degree, along with hundreds of hours of clinical experience (“What Acute Care…” 2018). This Master’s degree must be a program specific to acute care nurse practitioners (“Your Guide to Certification” 2001). The next step is to become certified by the State Board of Nursing or through a certain agency, such as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. When certified the new acute care nurse practitioner is able to practice based on the guidelines set by the state they are working in (“What Acute Care…” 2018).
The skills required to be a successful acute care nurse practitioner can be summarized by Susan Yeager, MS, RN, CCRN, ACNP when giving an interview for the Journal for Nurse Practitioners. Yeager described that the skills needed to be an acute care nurse practitioner build from the foundation of skills required for a registered nurse (“Acute Care Nurse Practitioner” 2010). Skills required of a nurse include flexibility, communication and humility, along with many others such as independence, integrity and compassion (Berman, Kozier, Erb, 2016).
Flexibility or adaptability is a skill needed because often times a problem or change will come up and you will need to be able to adapt to that change. For example, a patient may come in with a broken leg and you begin treating the leg, but then they suddenly begin vomiting. The nurse practitioner must adapt their care plan to the immediate need of the patient, which is to stop the vomiting. Nurse practitioners also have schedules that often change and include night or weekend shifts, even shifts on the holidays.
Communication is an essential skill needed for any health care professional, but an acute care nurse practitioner must be an expert. An acute care nurse practitioner will often be the leader of a health care team therefore good communication is needed for many reasons. Some of these examples include determining if a treatment is working, knowing what the patient is complaining of such as pain, and knowing what medications have been given. Another reason an acute care nurse practitioner needs good communication is because they have to communicate with the patient about their condition and the treatments they will receive. For communication to be effective,
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