Online Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) Programs

Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (also known as AGACNPs, AG-ACNPs, or AGNP-ACs) and acute care nurse practitioners (ACNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who provide medical care to patients from adolescence through old age who are suffering from severe or acute health conditions. While primary care adult-gerontology nurse practitioners care for adult patients throughout their lifespan and help them manage chronic conditions such as arthritis or diabetes, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners collaborate with physicians to treat and support patients when they experience critical health problems, such as a heart attack or a serious injury. Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners can work in numerous settings, including hospitals, critical care units, specialized care offices, and home care environments.

To become an AGACNP or ACNP, registered nurses must complete an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program or an acute care nurse practitioner program that has been accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Such programs generally culminate in either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

Overview of Accredited Online Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs

Online adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner programs are typically comprised of advanced coursework in critical care methods, a minimum number of clinical hours, and a certain number of on-campus visits or intensives. Several types of accredited online adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner programs exist, and generally fall into the following categories, depending on the level of education applicants must have prior to admission:

  • Online BSN to MSN-AGACNP Programs accept registered nurses who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from a CCNE or ACEN-accredited program. BSN to MSN-AGACNP programs generally involve the completion of 48 to 55 academic credits, and can take between 15 and 24 months to complete, depending on whether they are full-time or part-time.
  • Online Bachelor’s to MSN AGACNP Programs accept RNs who have earned a bachelor’s degree (either a BSN or a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing) from an accredited institution. For students who have their BSN, Bachelor’s to MSN-AGACNP programs are equivalent to BSN to MSN programs. Non-BSN students generally need to complete some baccalaureate-level bridge coursework prior to beginning master’s-level classes, and thus for these students this type of program generally requires the completion of 60 to 75 credits, and can take between 24 and 36 months to complete.
  • Online RN to MSN AGACNP Programs are typically for registered nurses who hold either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma in nursing from an accredited nursing program. In general, this type of program enables RNs to earn their BSN and MSN through one concentrated program. RN to MSN-AGACNP programs typically require the completion of 100 to 120 credits, and often take 24 to 36 months. Some programs allow students to transfer academic credit from their previous ADN or nursing diploma.
  • Online Post-MSN AGACNP Certificate Programs are for individuals who have already earned their master of science in nursing in an area other than acute care, and who wish to receive training and certification in adult-gerontology acute care nursing. Post-MSN certificate programs typically require the completion of 25 and 40 units and take between 12 to 15 months to complete.
  • Online BSN to DNP AGACNP Programs are designed for registered nurses who have a BSN, and want to earn a DNP without completing a separate MSN program first. These programs offer RNs the most direct path to earning a DNP, and typically require the completion of 65 to 95 credits. Full-time BSN to DNP AGACNP programs generally take three to four years to complete, while part-time programs can take up to six years. Some programs grant students both an MSN and a DNP; however, others culminate in only the DNP degree.
  • Online Post-Master’s to DNP AGACNP Programs help master’s-prepared nurses earn a DNP while also gaining APRN certification. These programs are essentially the combination of a DNP program and a post-master’s AGACNP certificate program, and typically take one to two years of full-time study to complete. MSN to DNP AGACNP new specialty programs are designed for nurses who possess a master’s degree in a non-APRN nursing field (such as nurse administration or clinical nurse leader), and want to pursue their first APRN certification. MSN to DNP AGACNP second specialty programs are for APRNs who wish to pursue a second certification while earning their DNP.

Once they have completed an accredited AGACNP program, RNs must apply for licensure or certification as an advanced practice registered nurse in their state of residence. Registered nurses who wish to earn national board certification as an adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner must pass a certification examination administered by either the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN).

Admission Requirements for Accredited Online AGACNP Programs

In addition to the degree requirements explained above, all accredited online AGACNP programs require applicants to be registered nurses with an active license in their state of residence. Other admission requirements may include a minimum overall undergraduate GPA, the fulfillment of certain college-level courses in nursing, and a minimum of one to two years of experience in an acute care setting. Application materials to this type of program generally include transcripts of all of college and (if applicable) graduate coursework, a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and a professional resume.

Accredited Online AGACNP Programs: Full-Time vs. Part-Time Formats

Online AGACNP programs are available in both full-time and part-time tracks. Full time adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner programs require students to take more classes per term, which typically allows them to complete their degree or certificate program in a shorter amount of time, relative to part-time programs. Part-time programs generally take longer than full-time programs, but enable students to take fewer courses each term, and can thus be a helpful option for students who have professional and personal commitments that limit their availability.

Students who are deciding between a full-time and a part-time AGACNP program should consider all of their personal and occupational commitments in order to accurately assess what type of program will help them optimally balance their responsibilities.

Online Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Programs: Clinical Hours Requirements

Clinical hours are a central element of accredited AGACNP programs, as all adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners must complete a minimum number of clinical hours in order to earn certification in this area. Clinical hours are the time an AGACNP student spends fulfilling actual nursing responsibilities in a real medical setting, such as a clinic or hospital. Students must complete their clinical hours under the guidance of a preceptor, a medical professional who mentors them and evaluates their work.

Accredited online AGACNP programs typically require between 600 and 1000 clinical hours. DNP students must complete at least 1000 post-BSN clinical hours in order to qualify for the doctorate, and many schools require more than that. In most AGACNP programs, clinical hours are spread across several terms, and incorporated into the curriculum through practicum classes that require students to meet with instructors and fellow students to discuss their clinical experiences.

Online Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Programs: Campus Visits and Intensives

Most accredited online adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner programs require students to attend one or more prearranged campus visits, also known as on-campus intensives. These visits typically take the majority of a day to several days, and can involve in-person lectures and discussions with faculty, networking events, team projects, and/or clinical simulation sessions during which students must work individually or in groups on a simulated clinical scenario. On OnlineFNPPrograms.com, we classify online AGACNP programs as those that that require three or fewer visits to the campus per year.

Sample Courses for Online AGACNP Programs

Accredited MSN programs in adult-gerontology acute care typically require students to take a core set of courses in advanced nursing topics such as advanced human physiology and pharmacology, advanced health assessment, and biostatistics, as well as a set of courses specifically in adult-gerontology acute care. DNP programs will also include courses designed to prepare students in the eight core competencies outlined by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in their Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice. These competencies include organizational and systems leadership, interprofessional collaboration, patient care technology, health care policy, and analytical methods for evidence-based practice.

While course titles and content vary across programs, typical classes for an AGACNP program may include:

Core Courses for Online AGACNP Programs:

  • Advanced Health Assessment: The principles and methods of evaluating and monitoring the health of patients from adolescence through senior adulthood. How to combine clinical interviewing and observation with diagnostic reasoning to take accurate medical histories.
  • Health Care Policy and Optimizing Health Care Delivery: The United States’ health care system and how current health care policies affect the accessibility and quality of treatment that patients receive. The role of the APRN within the larger health care system, and how APRNs can contribute on a micro, meso, and macro level to the betterment of patient care and well-being.
  • Leadership in Acute Care Nursing: The principles and methods of collaborating with and leading a team of medical professionals in an acute care setting. How to combine clinical knowledge with effective interpersonal and ethical decision-making skills to promote quality patient care and an effective medical workplace.

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Concentration Courses:

  • Pathophysiology in Acute Care: How the healthy human body operates at the cellular, tissue, organ, and organ systems levels, and how different acute health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, severe injuries, etc. disrupt the body’s homeostasis. How the different systems in the human body respond to acute diseases and other critical conditions that disrupt the body’s equilibrium. How AGACNPs can support patients and help restore patients’ health through pharmacological and holistic interventions.
  • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nursing Theory and Practice: The critical health conditions that adult and elderly patients commonly face, their symptoms, and overall effects they have on the human body. How AGACNPs can diagnose, treat, and help patients effectively manage their acute medical conditions. The different methods of testing for critical health problems, including ECG monitoring, lab analysis, radiographs, and invasive testing. How patients’ psychological, social, cultural, and genetic backgrounds affect their health care needs when they are suffering from serious health problems.
  • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nursing Practicum: A course that combines precepted hours at a local health care facility and seminar discussions with faculty and fellow students. During their precepted clinical hours, students will gain experience working with acutely ill patients in an actual medical setting. Through their fulfillment of clinical tasks, students will learn the principles and methods of clinical diagnosis, laboratory analysis, patient counseling and education, health promotion, treatment of acute conditions, and disease prevention. During seminar discussions students will present their experiences with peers and program faculty.