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In Focus: Reviewing the
Top ACNP Programs Online

Look inside some of 2020’s best online acute care nurse practitioner programs, learn about cost and accreditation, and see how the online component really works.

Last Updated: 08/07/2020
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MEET THE EXPERT

Chalice Blinick
Chalice Blinick

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Chalice Blinick is a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner with 12 years of experience in hospital and outpatient settings including renal care, ortho-neuro-trauma, medical-surgical, family medicine, and urgent care. She also runs a blog nursechalice.com

Online acute care nurse practitioner programs give advanced nursing students the chance to earn a degree in a flexible setting. Although the hands-on portions of the programs must be done on campus or at an approved third-party location, much of the academics can be taken virtually. But when it comes to the schools building these programs, which ones have the best combinations of accreditation and flexibility at a cost you can afford?

Leveraging data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and hand-collected data from thousands of accredited colleges across the country, EduMed.org has researched, analyzed, and ranked today’s best online ACNP programs. Review and compare schools and their programs below.

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About the ranking

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Methodology for EduMed’s 2020 Rankings

To be considered for this ranking, each school must have the following:

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Program(s) offered at least partially online.

School Metrics Explained

EduMed.org data scientists analyzed government higher education data and created a proprietary algorithm to rank each U.S. postsecondary institution and its online programs using 5 primary factors:

  • Cost: Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Online Program Availability: Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to Department of Education.
  • Academic Counseling: Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement: Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid: Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Most recent data pull: February 2020

# School Name Type Cost Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 University of UtahSalt Lake City, UT Public $$ 1

The Adult-Gerontology DNP from the University of Utah is available with an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner track that prepares graduates to sit for the exam for national certification leading to specialization practice in the adult-gerontology field. The curriculum features a combination of online coursework and courses attended on the College of Nursing’s Salt Lake City campus. Students are additionally required to complete a minimum of 1000 in-person practice hours at a program-approved clinical site. The curriculum culminates in the creation of a scholarly project that demonstrates the student’s synthesis of the program’s teachings. The entire program is designed to be completed with approximately three years of full-time study.

Program Overview:

DNP with Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP track (BS – DNP)

  • Credits: 79
  • Length: 33 months
  • Cost: $54,668.42 (est. total program cost, in-state); $128,026 (est. total program cost, out-of-state)
  • Mode: Some courses offered online.
  • Accreditation: NWCCU (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
71%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
2 University of ArizonaTucson, AZ Public $$$ 1

The University of Arizona offers two distance learning options for post-graduate acute nursing practitioner study. UA’s Doctor of Nursing Practice in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner degree program is intended for current RNs with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing to earn their DNP through either part-time or full-time study. The curriculum combines online coursework with on-campus intensives and in-person clinical and practicum placements. UA’s four-semester, 30-credit hour Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate features a part-time study format designed for working APRNs seeking this additional specialty certification. The curriculum includes online didactic coursework, in-person experiences on UA’s Tucson campus, and a Clinical Skills Intensive.

Program Overviews:

DNP in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP

  • Credits: 67
  • Length: 28 months (approx.) full-time; 40 months (approx.) part-time
  • Cost: $975/semester unit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Graduate Certificate

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: 15 (approx.)
  • Cost: $975/semester unit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
83%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
3 Kent State University at KentKent, OH Public $$ 1

Kent State University offers an MSN with Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner concentration that prepares students to take on acute patient care in moderate- to high-acuity settings in hospitals, emergency rooms, and specialty clinics, as well as a range of post-acute care settings. The curriculum combines courses presented online and on KSU’s Kent, Ohio campus, along with 600 in-person practicum hours. Both full-time and part-time academic plans are available. Admission into the program requires either a bachelor’s or graduate degree from an accredited program and active RN licensure in the state in which the student will complete his/her clinical coursework. Successful completion of this degree program qualifies the graduate to sit for either the AACN or ANCC exam for Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner certification.

Program Overview:

MSN with Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner concentration

  • Credits: 42
  • Length: 24 months full-time (part-time options available)
  • Cost: $465/credit (in-state); $835/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
79%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
4 Winona State UniversityWinona, MN Public $$ 3

Winona State University offers several graduate-level options for students interested in becoming an acute care nurse practitioner, each presented in a hybrid format combining online and on-campus academic components. WSU’s DNP Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner degree is offered in both post-baccalaureate and post-master’s programs. The post-baccalaureate program requires completion of 74 credit hours of coursework and 1260 in-person clinical hours. Both three-year and four-year study formats are available. The 33-credit hour post-master’s program is available in both two-year and three-year formats, and requires completion of 1000 clinical hours (460 coming from the student’s master’s degree program). The Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Graduate Certificate program consists of 18 credit hours of course study and 600 in-person clinical hours, and is designed to be completed in one year of part-time study. Admission into the program requires prior graduation from an accredited graduate program.

Program Overviews:

DNP Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP (post-baccalaureate)

  • Credits: 74
  • Length: 36 or 48 months
  • Cost: $794.46/credit (tuition and fees)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)

DNP Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP (post-master’s)

  • Credits: 33
  • Length: 24 or 36 months
  • Cost: $794.46/credit (tuition and fees)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Graduate Certificate

  • Credits: 18
  • Length: 12 months
  • Cost: $794.46/credit (tuition and fees)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
49%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
5 Purdue University GlobalDavenport, IA Public $$$ 2

There are three acute care nurse practitioner options available from Purdue Global University, all of which qualify graduates to sit for acute care NP certification. The Master of Science in Nursing with Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Degree Pathway program is for current RNs with a bachelor’s degree in nursing seeking to advance their careers into leadership positions. The MSN to DNP with Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Degree Pathway program is designed for RN/BSN degree holders seeking to earn both their master’s and doctorate degrees by completing one continuous curriculum. Purdue’s Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Certificate is for current MSN degree holders interested in obtaining specialization certification, but not in earning the full DNP degree. All three programs feature fully-online coursework along with in-person clinical hour requirements.

Program Overviews:

MSN with Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Career Pathway

  • Credits: 81
  • Length: 18-24 months
  • Cost: $420/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)

MSN to DNP with Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Career Pathway

  • Credits: 90
  • Length: 15-23 months
  • Cost: $420/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Certificate

  • Credits: 51
  • Length: 12 months
  • Cost: $420/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
6 Seton Hall UniversitySouth Orange, NJ Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$ 2

Seton Hall University offers two online programs for nursing professionals interested in the acute care nurse practitioner field: Master of Science in Nursing, Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (MSN-AGNP) with Acute Care Track and Nurse Practitioner Post-Master’s Certificate. MSN-AGNP students complete 48 credit hours of core NP and adult-gerontology specific coursework, taking two courses each semester. Admission requires a BSN degree from an accredited nursing program and active RN licensure. Acute Care NP Certificate students chose between Pediatric Care and Adult-Gerontology tracks. Both programs feature online didactic coursework along with in-person practicum experiences with substantial clinical hour requirements. Graduates of these programs qualify to sit for the corresponding national certification examinations.

Program Overviews:

MSN, Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (MSN- AGNP) with Acute Care Track

  • Credits: 48
  • Length: 48 months
  • Cost: $1,310/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school); CCNE (program)

Nurse Practitioner Post-Master’s Certificate

  • Credits: 23 (Pediatric NP); 39 (Adult-Gerontology NP)
  • Length: 24 months (Pediatric NP); 36 months (Adult-Gerontology NP)
  • Cost: $1,310/credit
  • Mode: Partially Online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
99%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
7 George Washington UniversityWashington, DC Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$ 3

There are three online acute care NP program options available from George Washington University, starting with its MSN in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program. This eight-semester, part-time program prepares RNs for leadership and team membership roles in the treatment of critically ill patients in a variety of care settings. The Post-BSN DNP in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP degree allows current BSN degree holders to prepare for top-tier positions in the profession through this six-year, part-time program. Students holding an MSN degree can opt for GWU’s 15-month, four-semester Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Post-Master’s Certificate program. All three programs feature primarily online coursework with students attending some in-person experiences on GW’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn, Virginia. All three programs additionally include substantial in-person clinical hour requirements typically with a clinical preceptor in the student’s local area. DNP clinical placements, however, are limited to the Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. areas.

Program Overviews:

MSN in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP

  • Credits: 48
  • Length: 33 months
  • Cost: $1,395/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school); CCNE (program)

DNP in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP (post-BSN)

  • Credits: 81
  • Length: 69 months
  • Cost: $1,395/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
75%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
8 DeSales UniversityCenter Valley, PA Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$ 1

DeSales University’s MSN Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP prepares students for advanced practice and leadership positions in the care of adults and elderly adults with acute and chronic illnesses and severe injuries. The program is available in two-year full-time and three-year part-time study formats. Additionally DeSales offers a unique Post-Graduate NP Certificate: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP program in which an individualized plan of study is created for each student based on a gap analysis that determines the courses and clinical hours required to earn the certificate. Some students may be able to complete the entire certificate program in a little as one year. Both the MSN and certificate programs include a combination of online coursework (with an option of some classes taken on-campus) along with in-person clinical hours performed at a program-approved practice site.

Program Overviews:

MSN Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP

  • Credits: 50
  • Length: 24 months (full-time); 36 months (part-time)
  • Cost: $855/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school); CCNE (program)

Post-Graduate NP Certificate: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP

  • Credits: 23-41 (depending on credits transferred in)
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $855/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
100%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
9 Saint Louis UniversitySaint Louis, MO Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$ 1

Saint Louis University offers three graduate programs leading to national certification for its adult-gerontology acute care NP graduates. SLU’s MSN Nursing Practitioner – Adult Gerontological Acute Care NP is for actively-licensed RNs with a BS degree intending to advance their professional practices into the adult-gerontology acute care field. Both full-time and part-time study options are available. SLU’s DNP with Adult/Gerontological Acute Care NP Concentration allows current RNs with a previously-earned BSN degree to go directly to earning a doctorate preparing them for top-level leadership positions in acute care nursing practice. Full-time and part-time study is available for this program as well. SLU’s Adult/Gerontological Acute Care NP Post-Master’s Certificate is designed for MSN degree holders with advanced practice experience seeking to expand their careers into the specialized care of adults and the elderly with acute and chronic illnesses.

Program Overviews:

MSN Nursing Practitioner – Adult/Gerontological Acute Care NP

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: 24-48 months
  • Cost: $1,090/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)

DNP with Adult/Gerontological Acute Care NP Concentration (Post-BSN)

  • Credits:
  • Length: 48-60 months
  • Cost: $1,160/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)

Adult/Gerontological Acute Care NP Post-Master’s Certificate

  • Credits: 33
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $1,160/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
92%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
10 Madonna UniversityLivonia, MI Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$ 1

Madonna University’s 29-credit hour Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Post-MSN Certificate provides current nurse practitioners with the knowledge and skills necessary to specialize in the care of adults and older adults in critical and acute care settings, and in building on their core NP practice competencies. Admission requirements include a previously-earned MSN from a CCNE or ACEN accredited degree program, current unencumbered RN license, and national certification in one of several advanced practice nursing specializations. Graduates qualify to sit for both the AACN and ANCC adult gerontology acute care NP national certifications, as well as obtain the State of Michigan’s Nurse Practitioner specialty certification.

Program Overview:

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Post-MSN Certificate

  • Credits: 29
  • Length: Varies depending on the clinical hours transferred in.
  • Cost: $945/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
96%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
11 Grand Canyon UniversityPhoenix, AZ Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$ 2

Grand Canyon University offers three programs for students seeking to become acute care NPs specializing in adult-gerontology. The 18-credit hour Bridge to MSN with Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Emphasis program provides experienced RNs holding a non-nursing bachelor’s degree with the necessary coursework to qualify for GCU’s MSN degree program. The MSN: Acute Care NP with Adult-Gerontology Emphasis prepares experienced nurses to provide advanced care to critically ill to adult and elderly patients. GCU’s Post-MSN Acute Care NP with Adult-Gerontology Emphasis Certificate is designed for current MSN degree holders interested in becoming a specialist in adult-gerontology acute care practice. Both the MSN and certificate programs are offered with primarily-online coursework. However students are required to attend two 3-day experiences on GCU’s Phoenix, Arizona campus, and complete substantial in-person clinical hour requirements.

Program Overview:

Bridge to MSN with Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Emphasis

  • Credits: 18
  • Length:
  • Cost: $470/credit
  • Mode:
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)

MSN: Acute Care NP with Adult-Gerontology Emphasis

  • Credits: 53
  • Length:
  • Cost: $690/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)

Post-MSN Acute Care NP with Adult-Gerontology Emphasis Certificate

  • Credits: 37
  • Length:
  • Cost: $690/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)

Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
97%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
12 The University of Tennessee-Health Science CenterMemphis, TN Public $$ 1

Two graduate-level acute care NP programs featuring online study are available from the University of Tennessee – Health Science Center. UTHSC’s DNP Adult Gerontology Acute Care NP degree prepares students for top-tier advanced practice and leadership positions in the treatment of adults and older adults with physiologically unstable and technically dependent conditions. Both full-time and part-time curriculum formats are available for both students with or without previous AG-ACNP certification. UTHSC’s one-year Post-MSN/Post-DNP Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP is designed for currently-licensed APRNs seeking the knowledge and skills needed to become adult-gerontology practice specialists. Both programs combine online didactic coursework with in-person clinical hours and occasional brief (one to three days each) on-campus visits for competency training, advisement, and testing.

Program Overviews:

Post-BSN to DNP Adult Gerontology Acute Care NP

  • Credits: 59
  • Length: 36 months (full-time study); 54 months (part-time study)
  • Cost: $650/credit (in-state); $700/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)

Post-MSN to DNP Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP

  • Credits: 39 (no previously-earned AG-ACNP certification); 33 (with previously-earned AG-ACNP certification)
  • Length: 18 months (full-time study); 30 months (part-time study)
  • Cost: $650/credit (in-state); $700/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)

Post-MSN to DNP Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP

  • Credits: 20
  • Length: 12 months
  • Cost: $550/credit (in-state); $600/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Profiling Online ACNP Programs

Anyone looking at ACNP programs, especially online programs, will have questions. How does the online component work? How much does the program cost? Is it accredited? The best way to answer these questions is with research. To help you get a handle on what an online ACNP program entails, we’ve unearthed some of the key details of today’s most popular advanced nursing programs online. See how these programs stack up.

Duke University

Duke-University

From its home base in Durham, North Carolina, Duke University’s School of Nursing offers an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner MSN with a specialization in Acute Care. This degree requires 48 credits alongside 840 clinical hours, the latter of which allows students to immerse themselves in real-world learning situations that help build experience and confidence along the way.

Available via distance learning, applicants to Duke’s program are expected to possess at least one year of clinical acute care nursing experience and a valid Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification. Required core course account for 12 hours and cover topics such as evidence-based practice, population health in a global society, and transitioning into advanced nursing practice from registered nursing. Students then enter a sequence known as the “Four Ps” which covers pathology, physiology, physical assessment, and pharmacology and accounts for 11 hours. The final 25 credits relate to acute care and cover topics exclusively related elderly patients facing acute illness. Four of the classes directly correlate to required clinical hours.

The School of Nursing offers start dates in the fall and spring and requires applicants to provide transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, updated resume, and official GRE scores.

Rush University

Rush-University

Operating as a private university in Chicago, Rush University was founded in 1972 as the teaching division of the Rush University Medical Center. The institution offers an Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Doctor of Nursing Practice for pediatric BSNs and MSNs with advanced experience to meet the needs of acutely ill children from birth through young adulthood.

Rush’s program exists online and is offered on a part-time basis to accommodate the busy schedules of working nurses. Most students need between 24 to 43 months to complete all requirements, depending on whether they enter with a BSN or MSN. Courses taught throughout the program include diagnostics for the APRN, leadership in an evolving healthcare environment, advanced primary care of the child, pediatric acute care, and applied pharmacology for pediatrics. All told, post-BSN learners take 62 credits and post-MSN students take 30 credits.

Rush University accepts applications in the summer for MSN-DNP students and in the fall for BSN-DNP learners. Applicants must possess a GPA of 3.0 or higher, provide answers to personal essay questions, supply three letters of recommendation, and include a resume, active registered nurse license, and GRE scores. They must also possess at least six months of inpatient pediatric nursing experience.

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt-University

Nashville’s Vanderbilt School of Nursing offers a hybrid format Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner DNP program with specializations in areas of cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, nephrology, pulmonology, oncology, neurosurgery, critical care, endocrinology, transplantation, trauma, and rehabilitation. Students can also select from optional focus areas in hospitalist or intensivist tracks. Given that the School of Nursing sits next door to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, students living nearby can take advantage of excellent opportunities for completing clinical hours.

The curriculum uses in-person lectures, live streaming, online activities, clinical training, and simulated experiences – all available in small classroom settings – to create an educational experience that graduates well-rounded and confident learners. Specific course topics include advanced health assessment applications in adult-gerontology acute care, pathophysiology and collaborative management, and application of evidence in healthcare environments. Students also take part in several practica and a preceptorship.

Students with no prior nursing experience must relocate to Nashville, while registered nurses with an ASN, ADN, or diploma take part in a modified distance learning format. Those with a BSN or MSN also participate in a modified distance learning format that includes intensive block visits to the Nashville campus over long weekends. Interested students can follow the AG-ACNP Instagram account to learn more.

Online Acute Care Program Types & Degree Levels

For nurses interested in acute care nurse practitioning, there are two main decisions to make. First, which patient groups do you want to work with? Adult-gerontology and pediatrics are the most common, but some programs have neonatal and women’s health tracks, as well. Second, which degree level do you need? The MSN may be all you need now, but a DNP could open doors in research and academic down the road. Get the skinny on the various options below, and begin to chart your path to becoming an acute care NP.

Acute Care Patient Groups

  • Acute Care Adult-Gerontology:
    Students who pursue this concentration have a passion for serving elderly patients as they face acute illnesses. Unlike working in pediatrics or neonatal, NPs who follow this path must possess a nuanced set of knowledge and skills that relate to health issues more common to this stage of life, e.g. arthritis, heart disease, and dementia. Understanding the complex needs of this population serves as the foundation for effective care.
  • Acute Care Pediatric:
    While gerontology focuses on end-of-life health issues, pediatrics concentrates on those presenting themselves during the first few years of life. During the course of a standard shift, an acute care pediatric NP may treat children for allergic reactions, broken bones, fevers, ear aches, dermatological issues, or hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Possessing the competencies and knowledge needed to recognize and treat such a wide range of issues requires an advanced education.

Degree Levels

It’s quite common to find ACNP programs at both the master’s and doctoral level. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees first became available in mid-2000s after the American Association of Colleges of Nursing called for an advanced graduate degree that built on MSN programs and offered further training in leadership, evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and research. Since then, approximately 350 DNP programs have been added to course offerings at institutions across America. Many schools offer both MSN and DNP programs to meet the varied needs of future acute care nurse practitioners.

1. MSN:
These degrees typically take two years to complete and prepare students to sit for their state’s required acute care nurse practitioner exam. Coursework and clinicals focus on assessing acult patients via interviewing and diagnostic techniques to determine risk for life-threatening conditions. The master’s also introduces students to advanced critical thinking in healthcare environments, creating individualized care using established research methods, and how to function as a member of a healthcare team.

2. DNP:
The DNP can take four years to complete and builds upon many of the knowledge and skills learned at the MSN level. DNP candidates often further research into a single area of interest, such as interprofessional team care for the critically ill, or focus on managing acute care across a large healthcare facility, such as an individual practice, an urgent care center, or a hospital). For students interested in advanced teaching at the post-secondary level, a PhD in nursing may be a better fit.

In Detail: Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs Online

  • Synchronous learning:
    Synchronous learning refers to a style of online education that requires students and professors to login to the designated learning platform at specific times to participate in live lectures, discussions, and assignments. This style of distance learning appeals to students with flexible schedules who want to feel more connected and involved with their cohort. It may especially appeal to registered nurses who work night shifts but can participate in classes offered at standard times during the day. On the other hand, individuals with busy schedules may find it difficult to commit to being online during specific hours multiple times per week.
  • Asynchronous leaning:
    Asynchronous learning makes it possible for online students to watch lectures, communicate with their peers and professors, and turn in assignments that fit with their unique schedules. So long as students meet deadlines, it does not matter when/where the work is completed. This appeals to students who need flexibility to juggle personal, professional, and academic responsibilities. This could be a great option for ACNP students who have little flexibility due to their rotation hours or shift irregularities.
  • Hybrid:
    For many degree seekers, hybrid programs combine the best of both worlds by allowing students to complete some coursework online but also visit campus and have face-to-face sessions with others in their program. This option appeals to students with flexible enough schedules that they can visit campus for weekend/weeklong intensive learning sessions without using too many personal days at work. Students living far away from school, however, may find it too financially burdensome to drive lots of hours or buy a plane ticket every few months.

ACNP Admissions & Accreditation

To earn admission to an acute care nurse practitioner program, you must hold an active RN license. While the majority of programs are geared towards learners who already hold a BSN or MSN, some also accept ASN, ADN, and diploma holders. Regardless of education level completed, almost all programs look for students with at least six months of acute care registered nurse experience prior to offering admission. Other prerequisites and admission criteria are reviewed in the following sections.

Prerequisites

Both PNP-AC and AG-ACNP programs are available at the master’s and doctoral level. To earn admission to graduate NP programs, candidates will generally need:

  • Official transcripts from a CCNE or ACEN accredited BSN program
  • Undergraduate prerequisite courses
  • 3.0 GPA minimum
  • One year of acute or critical care experience
  • Letters recommendation
  • GRE or MAT test scores
  • Purpose statement

Accreditation

Proper accreditation for acute care programs signals the quality of education in general, and ensures that a program keeps its curriculum up to date. In addition to making it easier to get hired, accreditation facilitates credit transfers and the licensing process in each state. When vetting schools and programs your population of choice should dictate the accrediting and certification body that you will work with to gain your credentials. Candidates who have graduated from an accredited NP program will then test to gain their acute care status.

Curriculum for Online Acute Care Programs

Acute care nurse practitioner curricula are designed to provide graduates with the advanced skills in patient care, organizational leadership, research, and teaching needed to thrive in numerous healthcare settings. Whether working under the demands of an emergency room or giving lectures to educate the next generation of nurses, these individuals need a wide and varied set of skills to meet the demands of the role. ACNP programs rise to the challenge and provide students with the theoretical and practical knowledge needed for this industry. Take a look at some of the common courses in pediatric and adult- gerontology acute care programs below.

Pediatric

Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Courses

Designed specifically for nurses who want to provide acute care services to pediatric patients, these curricula – whether designed as MSN or DNP programs – help students learn how to offer family-centered, culturally sensitive services that employ the latest research and techniques in the field of child and adolescent nursing. Students divide their time between classroom sessions and clinical rotations to adequately serve patients and families of many different backgrounds. Programs require between 42 and 68 credits, depending on the type of degree awarded at commencement.

Current Issues in Advanced Pediatric Acute Care Delivery

Students in this course delve into some of the emerging topics within the discipline, with specific emphasis on how to develop effective strategies when working with diverse populations. Learners also cover topics in communication techniques and new healthcare regulations, policies, and trends.

Psychopathology for Children and Adolescents

Students look at major childhood disorders and how they affect mental health risk factors. Learners cover modalities such as individual, cognitive-behavioral, and family-based therapies alongside trauma-based and psychopharmacological interventions.

APN in Pediatric Acute Care

Acting as a sequence of courses, these classes help students understand some of the general methodologies and evidence-based practices used in caring for acutely, critically, and/or chronically ill children. Students learn about proper assessment and management techniques for common problems and how to provide family-centered care.

Advanced Health Assessments in ACNP- Pediatrics

Building upon the previous class, this upper-level course provides both clinical and laboratory experiences to help NPs in training build the skills and techniques needed to assess childhood and adolescent wellness. In particular, students learn how to take medical histories, collaborate with other medical professionals, and provide sensitive care.

Advanced Management of Acute Care in Pediatrics

In addition to learning skills in areas of intubation, lumbar punctures, and suturing, students also build the communication skills needed when talking to families about invasive testing, ethics, palliative care, end-of-life services, and the decision on whether to donate organs.

Adult-Gerontology

Acute Care Adult-Gerontology

Registered nurses, after working in adult-gerontology settings for a time, sometimes feel they can do more with their skills and career. If this sounds like you, pursuing an ACNP credential focused on adult-gerontology care could be the ticket. These programs combine studies in population-appropriate assessments, diagnoses, and treatment plans alongside hands-on opportunities to build skills and confidence in your new role. Offered at both the MSN and DNP levels, these programs usually take between two and four years to complete, depending on if you study on a full- or part-time schedule. Check out some common coursework below.

Foundations of Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Management:

Typically taken in the first year, this course looks at some of the age- and culturally-appropriate methods of evidence-based care for this population. Students consider questions of family involvement, patient privacy, right to die legislation, and other conditions that affect how care is managed at this stage of life.

Specialized Pharmacology within Adult-Gerontology Acute Care:

Building upon previous generalized knowledge of pharmacology, this course examines some of the specialized needs of the aging population. Topics include prescriptions based on existing conditions, cost-effective pharmacotherapeutics, appropriate communication with medical staff and family, and legal and regulatory considerations.

Advanced Health Assessments for Adult-Gerontology Acute Care:

Students in this class learn how to provide health assessments in a variety of clinical settings, how to appropriately take medical histories, and how to perform physical assessments that fit the needs of this population. Proper documentation of all steps taken is also emphasized throughout.

Collaborative Management in A-G Acute Care:

Often, patients at this state of life experience multiple acute, critical, and/or chronic health issues. With this in mind, students learn how to manage acute care across various disciplines by working and communicating with health practitioners across the care spectrum.

A-G ACNP Practicum:

Stepping out of the classroom and into a clinical setting, this course requires students to spend a set number of hours using their theoretical skills and applying them in real-world cases. Along the way, students and their teachers continue meeting virtually or in-person to discuss their cases.

ACNP Certifications

After finishing your ACNP coursework and graduating, the next step is certification. Depending on the type of ACNP you want to become, several credentialing centers provide specialized exams. To meet the requirements, you need to provide proof of an unencumbered and active license, completion of an advanced degree, and successful passage of certain prerequisite courses. Students can learn more about these mandates by reviewing eligibility requirements for each credential.

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Certification (ACNPC-AG)

The American Nurses Credentialing Center provides the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGACNP-BC) for eligible students who possess an active RN license and a graduate degree from an accredited program. Students must also show that they completed graduate-level coursework in advanced physiology/pathophysiology, advanced health assessment, and advanced pharmacology, as well as content in health promotion/maintenance and differential diagnosis and disease management. Applicants take a four hour, 200 question exam and pay $395 as a non-member or $295 as an ANA member. The certificate remains valid for five years.

Pediatric Acute Care Certification (CPNP-AC)

The Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care (CPNP-AC) Certification exists through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board and requires applicants to meet a number of requirements before sitting the exam. In particular, they must possess an active RN license, an MSN or DNP with a specialization in pediatric ACNP from an accredited program, at least 500 supervised direct care clinical practice hours, and completion of graduate-level courses in advanced physiology/pathophysiology, advanced health assessment, and advanced pharmacology. The exam costs $385 initially and individuals must be recertified annually.

How Much Does an Acute Care NP Program Cost?

The cost of an acute care NP program can vary by school type, program length, and the amount of aid available. In addition to ensuring your program has all the right accreditation and academic boxes checked, you also need to make sure it fits your budget. Whether online or on campus (or both), a two-year program can run between $15,000 and $50,000. For example, Mount Carmel College of Nursing’s master’s program is two years and 48-credit for $27,988. A similar program at the Goldfarb School of Nursing is 52 credits for $46,612.

The numbers can be tough to look at, but know that you have financial options available. Use as many as you can to knock down that price as far as you can. To learn more about financial aid for your ACNP program, read our comprehensive guide to financial aid in healthcare.

Grants & Scholarships for ACNP Programs

Nothing beats free money for college. If you’re serious about becoming an acute care nurse practitioner and want to explore scholarships, grants, and everything in between, check out the resources below.

ConWay

Conway Scholarship. Learners enrolled at Johns Hopkins University and pursuing an MSN in ACNP can apply for this award if they’re able to demonstrate financial need and meet eligibility requirements. The award pays for half of all tuition during the degree.

MSN

MSN Student Scholarships. Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing offers one partial and six full tuition awards to accepted MSN students working towards an acute care nurse practitioner program. Students must meet all eligibility requirements.

CVS

CVS Minute Clinic Scholarship. CVS provides 20 awards each to MSN and DNP learners working towards nurse practitioner degrees who possess a 3.2 GPA or higher and can demonstrate community and leadership engagement. Awards total $2,500 each.

NPHF

Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation Endowed Scholarship. Together with Proctor & Gamble, NPHF offers an $1,000 award to NP students in MSN or DNP programs who can demonstrate that they made positive contributions to their school, their community, or their patients.

Kentucky

Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners & Nurse Midwives Scholarship. RNs pursuing an MSN or DNP degree to become an ACNP can apply for this $1,500 scholarship.