Adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioners (also known as AGNPs, AGPCNPs and AG-PCNPs), adult primary care nurse practitioners (ANPs), and geriatric nurse practitioners (GNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who provide primary care to patients from adolescence into senior adulthood. They evaluate, monitor, support, and promote the health of individuals ages 13 and older by treating chronic diseases and conditions, advising patients about effective self-care and the suitability of certain medical procedures, advocating for patient health, participating in community health education, and (in some states) prescribing medications.
As their names suggest, AGNPs, ANPs, and GNPs care for adults at different stages in their lives:
- Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners work with individuals from adolescence into old age to help them manage both chronic and episodic health conditions.
- Adult nurse practitioners provide primary care to young and middle age adults, and focus on the chronic and acute conditions that tend to afflict this age group.
- Geriatric nurse practitioners or gerontological nurse practitioners specialize in caring for the elderly, and help patients treat and manage diseases that commonly occur with the onset of old age.
Adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioners, adult nurse practitioners, and geriatric nurse practitioners can also choose to further specialize in a particular area within adult medical care, such as pulmonary care, cardiovascular care, oncology, HIV/AIDS, or diabetes. AGNPs, GNPs and ANPs work in a variety of medical settings, including hospitals, private and volunteer clinics, and community health centers.
Overview of Nurse Practitioner Programs: Adult-Gerontology, Adult, and Geriatric Primary Care NP Programs
To become an AGNP, ANP, or GNP, registered nurses must typically complete an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner program, adult nurse practitioner program, or geriatric nurse practitioner program that has been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). After completing an accredited program, students must then apply to their state’s board of nursing for licensure/certification as an advanced practice registered nurse in their particular specialty. RNs who wish to earn national board certification as an AGNP, ANP, or GNP must take and pass a certification exam administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP).
Online AGNP, ANP, and GNP programs involve a combination of academic coursework, clinical hours, and for the majority of online programs, a minimum number of on-campus visits. Most accredited graduate nursing programs in adult primary care are adult-gerontology nurse practitioner programs. While adult nurse practitioner and geriatric nurse practitioner programs exist, individuals interested in becoming ANPs or GNPs may be able to complete an accredited adult-gerontology program in order to qualify for certification in their desired specialty.
For example, the AANPCP allows individuals who completed an accredited AGNP program to take either their Adult Nurse Practitioner or their Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner examination. For more information on what types of programs qualify students for certification as an AGNP, ANP, or GNP in their state of residence, registered nurses should contact their state board of nursing, as well as the ANCC or the AANPCP.
Types of Accredited Online Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Degree Programs
Accredited online adult-gerontology nurse practitioner programs are offered at multiple degree levels, and are a good option for RNs who want the convenience of online education while pursuing their graduate nursing degree or credential. Types of online adult-gerontology primary care programs include:
- Online BSN to MSN AGNP Programs require registered nurses to have completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from a program that has been accredited by the CCNE or ACEN. BSN to MSN-AGNP programs generally require the completion of 44 to 60 credits, and often take between 15 to 24 months to complete.
- Online Bachelor’s to MSN AGNP Programs accept registered nurses who hold a bachelor’s degree (either a BSN or a bachelor’s in a non-nursing field) from an accredited institution. For students who hold a BSN, these programs are equivalent to BSN to MSN programs. For non-BSN students, Bachelor’s to MSN-AGNP programs generally require the completion of 57 to 75 credits, and often take between 24 to 30 months to complete, as students without a BSN generally need to complete a certain number of baccalaureate-level bridge courses or prerequisites before starting their graduate course of study.
- Online RN to MSN AGNP Programs accept RNs who have either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a diploma in nursing from an accredited nursing program, and who would like to earn their BSN and MSN together through one concentrated program. RN to MSN AGNP programs generally take 24 to 36 months to complete and require 120 to 150 units. Most RN to MSN programs allow students to transfer credits from their previous ADN or nursing diploma to accelerate the completion of their degree. Students should note that while some online RN to MSN AGNP programs accept candidates who hold either an ADN or a diploma, other programs only accept candidates who have an ADN.
- Online Post-MSN AGNP Certificate Programs enable individuals who have already earned an MSN in an area of advanced nursing other than adult care (ex. pediatrics, women’s health) to gain training and certification as an AGNP. Post-MSN certificate programs generally take between 12 and 15 months to complete, and require 25 to 40 credits.
- Online BSN to DNP AGPCNP Programs are for registered nurses who hold a BSN, and want to pursue a DNP without first completing a separate MSN program. These programs typically require 65 to 95 credits, and take three to four years of full-time study to complete. Part-time programs are also available, and may take up to six years. Students should note that some BSN to DNP AGPCNP programs grant both an MSN and a DNP, while others confer only a DNP upon completion.
- Online Post-Master’s to DNP AGPCNP Programs give nurses who have earned their master’s from an accredited school of nursing the opportunity to pursue both a DNP and APRN certification in the specialty area of AGPCNP. Students can think of these programs as a post-MSN DNP program combined with a post-master’s AGPCNP certificate program. MSN to DNP AGPCNP new specialty programs are designed for students who hold a master’s degree in a non-APRN nursing field (such as nurse administration or nursing education), and want to earn APRN certification along with their DNP. MSN to DNP AGPCNP second specialty programs, on the other hand, are for students who already possess APRN certification, and want to earn a second certification in this specialty area. MSN to DNP programs typically take one to two years of full-time study to complete.
Admission Requirements for Accredited Online AGNP Programs
Applicants to online AGNP programs must be registered nurses with an active license to practice in their state of residence. Academic admission requirements to online AGPCNP programs vary depending on the degree sought. For example, as their name suggests, BSN to MSN-AGNP programs generally require candidates to have completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an accredited institution, while post-MSN certificate and DNP programs in adult-gerontology primary care typically require an MSN or higher graduate degree in nursing.
Other admission requirements may include at least a year of professional medical experience, a minimum undergraduate GPA, and the completion of certain courses with a passing grade. Applications to AGNP programs typically require the submission of a personal statement, undergraduate and (if applicable) graduate transcripts, and letters of recommendation from people who understand the applicant’s professional and academic background.
Accredited Online AGPCNP Programs: Curriculum
Online AGNP programs prepare registered nurses to provide primary care to adults across the age spectrum. As a result, these programs typically consist of fundamental courses in human physiology, development, and pathophysiology, as well as courses that cover specific health conditions and concerns relevant to individuals both across the lifespan and at certain stages in their lives, such as diabetes, heart disease, sexual development and health, pulmonary health, and human nutrition.
In addition to advanced nursing core courses and AGNP specialization courses, the curriculum in a DNP program will include courses focused on the eight core competencies outlined by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice. These are areas that all DNP graduates, regardless of their specialization, must receive training in, and include organizational and systems leadership, health care policy, clinical prevention and population health, patient care technology, and analytical methods for evidence-based practice.
Online AGNP programs are available in both full-time and part-time formats. Full-time programs generally require students to take more courses per term, and therefore can typically be completed in a shorter amount of time. In contrast, part-time programs typically take longer, as they allow students to take fewer courses per term, but generally offer students more flexibility with their schedule. When deciding between full-time and part-time online AGNP programs, prospective students should take into account their other personal and professional commitments to ensure that they have the time needed to earn their graduate nursing degree.
Online AGPCNP Programs: Clinical Hours
All states require AGNPs to fulfill a minimum number of clinical hours in order to earn licensure or certification as an APRN. As a result, all accredited online AGNP programs require students to complete a certain number of clinical hours while enrolled. Clinical hours are defined as the time a student spends in an actual medical setting, fulfilling real nursing tasks under the supervision of a preceptor. Preceptors are medical professionals that serve as mentors and guides to students during their clinical internships. Preceptors also monitor students’ progress and help to determine students’ grades for their clinical work.
Online AGNP programs typically require between 540 and 900 clinical hours, and often divide these hours across several terms. For example, an AGNP program that requires 900 clinical hours might spread these hours out over six terms, so that students fulfill 150 hours per term. Students in an online DNP program must complete a minimum of 1000 clinical hours in order to qualify for the degree, and some schools require more than 1,000 hours.
The process by which students obtain clinical sites and preceptors varies across nursing programs. Some AGNP programs match students to clinical locations and preceptors based on preferences that students submit. Other programs ask that students find their own clinical sites and preceptors, but provide advising and resources to students during their search. After students have found a clinical site and preceptor, they must seek approval from faculty or the clinical site coordinator of their program before they can begin fulfilling their clinical hours. For every term that includes the completion of clinical hours, students must either be matched or find their clinical site and preceptor prior to the beginning of classes.
Accredited Online Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Programs: On-Campus Visits
In addition to completing clinical hours, the majority of accredited online AGNP programs require students to attend a minimum number of campus visits, also known as on-campus intensives (OCIs). These campus visits are typically comprised of in person lectures and discussions with program faculty and fellow classmates, as well as group projects or simulation experiences (simulated clinical scenarios that students must work through either individually or in groups). Campus visits may also include networking events that give students the opportunity to connect with faculty, fellow students, and even professionals in their field of study. On OnlineFNPPrograms.com, we classify any graduate nursing program that requires three or fewer visits to campus per year as an online program.
Online AGNP Programs: Sample Courses
While course titles and specific content vary between nursing schools, AGNP programs generally include the following courses:
Core Courses for Online AGPCNP Programs:
- Advanced Health Assessment: How to conduct an accurate health assessment by collecting, analyzing, and synthesizing patients’ physical, genetic, social, psychological, and cultural information. Maintaining medical histories and using clinical decision making and diagnostic skills to develop an overall health care plan for patients from their health data.
- Human Physiology and Pathophysiology: The structure and function of the human body at the organ systems, organ, tissue, and molecular levels. How a healthy human body functions at different stages of life. The origin, progression, and overall impact of common diseases and health conditions that afflict the human body. How APRNs can combine knowledge of human anatomy and various diseases to create effective medical care plans for patients.
- Advanced Concepts of Pharmacology: The common classes of drugs and their effects on the human body (i.e. the organ systems these medicines act upon, what diseases and conditions they treat and through what mechanisms). The principles of pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, drug metabolism, and dose-response relationships, and how APRNs can take these principles into account when addressing patients’ treatment needs.
Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Concentration Courses:
- Primary Care of Adolescents and Young Adults: The concepts and principles that are essential to effective primary health care of adolescents. The physiological, psychological, developmental, social, and cultural characteristics of this age group, and the common conditions and diseases that may afflict adolescents and young adults (ex. diabetes, depression, hormonal imbalances, obesity, asthma, etc.). The effect of the family unit on adolescent and young adults’ health.
- Primary Care of the Middle Aged Adult: The essential principles and considerations that APRNs must take into account when evaluating and treating middle aged patients. The general physiological and psychological changes that individuals undergo as they progress from youth to middle age. Common diseases and conditions that may affect people in this age group (ex. diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, stroke). How to advise and educate patients on effective self-care, such as proper nutrition, exercise, and other preventative measures.
- Primary Care of the Elderly: How to monitor and care for the health of elderly patients. The physical, cognitive/psychological, emotional, and social changes that patients experience as they move into old age, and how APRNs and other health care providers can support individuals during this time. The common conditions that older individuals face, such as osteoporosis, hip fractures, cancer, heart disease, and dementia, and their treatment. How to effectively counsel patients about effective self-care.
- Mental Health in Adults Across the Lifespan: How to assess, monitor, and support the mental health of patients across the lifespan. Understanding the origins and progression of various mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD, and how to treat these conditions. The impact that patients’ age, socioeconomic circumstances, ethnicity, physiology, and cultural background have on their mental health.