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Arkansas State University

Five Skills to be Successful as an Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

The demand for nurses specializing in gerontology continues to climb with the growing elderly population. In the next four decades, the number of adults over 65 will double, comprising 23% of the population. As people age, they require more providers and consume more healthcare resources. Adult gerontology nurse practitioners (AGNPs) can fill the gap and expand access to healthcare, particularly in rural areas.

What Are the Responsibilities of an Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)?

AGNPs provide health care for patients from adolescence through old age. They often choose from two different education paths: primary care or acute care. Primary care addresses wellness and chronic conditions while acute care addresses complex, critical or urgent conditions.

As the name implies, adult gerontology acute care NPs (AG-ACNPs) care for adults or a geriatric population with critical care needs of a new or unstable chronic condition. Their primary specialties might include complex, acute conditions that typically require hospitalization, intensive or emergency care or an acute episode in an urgent care clinic. With more acute care outside the traditional hospital, some AG-ACNP positions are in non-traditional settings such as telehealth services, home care or long-term care. In addition, specialty services (for example cardiology, oncology or trauma) hire AG-ACNPs.

What Skills Does an AG-ACNP Need to Be Successful?

If you want to improve the outcomes of adults with acute episodes of illness or manage chronic diseases, then consider the role of an AG-ACNP. Care is quickly shifting from hospitals to other care settings, with NPs in specialty areas requiring more acute care knowledge. Nurses need various “hard” and “soft” skills to work in the role of an AG-ACNP. Hard skills refer to the knowledge and abilities that help you perform your job effectively, whereas soft skills are the interpersonal qualities that help you thrive in the workplace.

Below are five critical skills for a career as an AG-ACNP:

  1. Evidence-Based Care. Evidence-based practice (EBP) nursing practice means using the most up-to-date research and information to improve health outcomes. When encountering complex situations or problems, healthcare professionals examine all the information to make sound clinical EBP clinical decisions. Further, nursing education can help professionals prioritize and select care strategies based on EBP and the most recent data analytics.
  2. Advocacy. AG-ACNPs are strong advocates for their patients and caregivers, their profession and themselves. As advocates, they provide a much-needed voice for patients. For example, they provide essential information for informed decision-making, support patient care choices and communicate patient wishes and preferences. They look beyond this episode of care to anticipate patient conditions upon discharge. In addition, they effectively communicate to mobilize resources for optimal patient care.
  3. Communication. Effective communication is vital in caring for all patients, particularly an aging population. AG-ACNPs must be prepared to slow down and repeat questions, often waiting patiently for answers. Older patients may require extra time and various communication methods to elicit responses. They may have hearing loss or visual impairments that can create communication barriers. If the patient cannot give a medical history, the AG-they must work with caregivers or family members to address the patient’s history, medicines and concerns.
  4. Role Models. AG-ACNPs caring for aging patients must be positive role models for quality elder care. Patient-centric care and customer service must always be the focus of their work. As role models, they can support evidence-based practice and team member education. They are responsible for identifying overall quality activities to improve assessment, planning, intervention or evaluation. As a leader, they provide constructive and timely feedback about recommendations to improve and streamline operations. AG-ACNPs must find ways to improve the care that meets the specific needs of their patient population.
  5. Analytical Approach. Strong analytical skills are critical to thoroughly assess health needs and problem-solve potentially complex diagnosis and treatment plans. Often, as people age, there are physical or cognitive impairments and more preexisting chronic diseases. As a result, many patients have a decreased physiological reserve, making them more vulnerable to short-term and long-term treatment side effects. In addition, older adults use more medications, making them at higher risk for medication errors and interactions due to polypharmacy.

Given the high demand for these professionals, consider a career as an AG-ANP by enrolling in Arkansas State University’s AG-ACNP program. Graduates of the program can choose certification from one of two national NP certification boards, the American Nurse’s Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) Certification Corporation.

Learn more about how Arkansas State University’s online MSN – Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program.

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