Through a combination of unprecedented factors, including a higher incidence of chronic conditions and an aging Baby Boomer population, the demand for adult-gerontology acute care services is on the rise. Nurses who specialize in this area work collaboratively to improve patient outcomes and longevity. They will be anticipated to fill a critical healthcare gap going forward.
What Is Adult-Gero Acute Care Nursing?
Nurses interested in this career pathway typically pursue graduate-level education via a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Adult-Gero Nurse Practitioner program. This prepares them for advanced practice and certification as a nurse practitioner who specializes in adult-gerontology acute care.
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AGACNP) provide "a spectrum of care, from disease prevention to acute care management," with the primary focus on caring "for patients with complex, acute conditions." Their patients span all of adulthood, from adolescence through old age. AGACNPs develop comprehensive treatment plans that address emergent issues, reduce further complications and improve long-term outcomes for patients.
While job responsibilities vary based on practice setting, AGACNPs often:
- Perform physical assessments
- Order and interpret diagnostic testing, like labs and x-rays
- Record progress notes
- Prescribe and manage medications
- Communicate with other healthcare providers and consultants
- Discharge patients
Due to their unique skillsets, AGACNPs may work in a variety of settings. Hospital inpatient units are the most common space of practice, though they frequently work in intensive care, acute care and trauma units of tertiary care facilities. Increasingly, they care for patients in specialty clinics and long-term care facilities. In addition to clinical practice, AGACNPs serve in administrative, education and research capacities also.
What Is Driving the Demand for Adult-Gero Acute Care NPs?
The National Center for Health Workforce Analysis (NCHWA) estimates that demand for critical care NPs will increase 16% by 2025. There are several contributing factors driving the shortage of AGACNPs, including:
Higher rates of chronic, lifelong conditions. The number of people experiencing chronic or lifelong health conditions — such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes — drives acute care demand. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that as many as 60% of U.S. adults have at least one chronic disease, and four in 10 adults have two or more. AGACNPs work closely with these individuals to address disease exacerbations and optimize their care.
An aging population. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that all 73 million Baby Boomers will be aged 65 or older by 2030, with 10K people reaching this threshold each day. Many will require complex care for acute and chronic conditions, further increasing the demand for adult-gero services and possibly prompting facilities to hire more AGACNPs.
Nurse retirements. The American Nurses Association (ANA) reports that more than 500K nurses — approximately one-eighth of the total nursing workforce — will retire by 2022. Older, experienced AGACNPs will likely represent a portion of the retirees, so employers will seek qualified replacements.
National nursing faculty shortage. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), as much as one-third of the baccalaureate and graduate nursing faculty workforce will retire by 2025. In 2019 alone, U.S. nursing schools turned away more than 80K qualified applicants, largely because of faculty shortages. To fill vacant positions and expand programs to meet growing demand, schools may hire more AGACNP educators.
Acute Care Through the Lifespan
Adult-gerontology acute care is an important nursing specialization, especially as the population becomes older, lives longer and develops mores serious health needs. Following graduate-level education and certification, AGACNPs can provide this necessary care for patients from adolescence through adulthood.
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