Top Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) Programs 2022

Jennifer E. Engen

Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (ACNPs) – Also known as Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (AGACNPs) – provide patient care for everything from disease prevention to acute care management. Often, practitioners will continue to follow patients from the hospital setting to the outpatient setting. In order to become an ACNP, you need to complete an accredited MSN, DNP, or post-graduate acute care nurse practitioner program. Nurse.org has compiled the best programs for 2022 to help you with your decision.

Fast Facts About Acute Care Nurse Practitioners

Salary $113,060 average salary via Salary.com
Program Length

Acute Care NP Program Length: 

  • 2-5 years
  • 35-60 credit hours
  • Minimum of 500 clinical hours, 1,000+ for DNP programs
Requirements Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Post-Graduate Certification

ACNP Program Ranking Methodology

Our ranking algorithm uses the latest and most robust U.S. government data sets, specifically the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and College Scorecard. We take into consideration factors such as graduation rate, student-faculty ratio, program focus, and more to help you find the right nursing program for you.

Top Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs 2022

1. Duke University

Admissions: December 1st

Degree Awarded: MSN

Program Length: 48 credit hours and 728 clinical hours

Location: Distance-Based with in-person clinical experience 

Program Cost: $1,910 per credit hour

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 919-613-9787 or 877-415-3853

College of Nursing – Contact Email Address: [email protected]  or [email protected]

2. Vanderbilt University

Admissions: November 1st

Degree Awarded: MSN

Program Length: 40 credit hours and 630 clinical hours

Location: Modified Distance Learning including time on campus in 3-4 day blocks

Program Cost: $1,716 per credit hour

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 615-875-8799

College of Nursing – Contact Email Address: [email protected]

3. George Washington University

Admissions: May 15th 

Degree Awarded: MSN

Program Length: 48 credit hours and 700 clinical hours

Location: Distance Learning with two campus visits and in-person clinical experience  

Program Cost: $1,395 per credit hour

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 202-994-7901

College of Nursing – Contact Email Address: [email protected]

4. Walden University

Admissions: September 27th

Degree Awarded: MSN

Program Length: 84 quarter credits

Location: Distance-Based with in-person clinical experience 

Program Cost: $53,940 total program cost

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 844-398-6138

College of Nursing – Contact Email Address: [email protected]

5. University of Maryland

Admissions: November 1st 

Degree Awarded: DNP

Program Length: 80 credit hours and a minimum of 1,060 clinical hours

Location: Blended with in-classroom and online 

Program Cost: In-State: $824 per credit hour Out of State: $1,461 per credit hour

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 410-706-0501, option #2

College of Nursing – Contact Email Address: [email protected]

6. University of Alabama–Birmingham

Admissions: February 18th and October 12th 

Degree Awarded: MSN

Program Length: 45 credit hours and 10 credit hours of clinical coursework

Location: Distance Learning with in-person clinical. Required in-person days.

Program Cost: $656 per credit hour

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 205-996-1606

College of Nursing – Contact Email Address: [email protected]

7. University of Pennsylvania

Admissions: Full Time: November 1st Part Time: Rolling Admission

Degree Awarded: MSN

Program Length: 14 course units and 600 clinical hours

Location: Combination of in-person and online learning

Program Cost: $1,931 per credit hour

Accreditation: American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 215-898-4271

College of Nursing – Contact Email Address: [email protected]

8. Case Western University

Admissions: March 15th

Degree Awarded: MSN

Program Length: 39 credit hours and 700 clinical hours

Location: Distance Learning with in-person clinical

Program Cost: $2,197 per credit hour

Accreditation: American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 216-368-0700 or 216-368-5981

College of Nursing – Contact Email Address: [email protected] or [email protected]

9. Columbia University

Admissions: January 20th

Degree Awarded: DNP

Program Length: 79 credit hours and 630 clinical hours

Location: Distance Learning with in-person clinical

Program Cost: $87,242 per year

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 303-724-1812

College of Nursing – Contact Email Address: [email protected] 

10. Emory University

Admissions: March 15th

Degree Awarded: MSN

Program Length: 48 credit hours and 720 clinical hours

Location: Distance learning with in-person clinical 

Program Cost: $1,963 per credit hour

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 404-727-7980

College of Nursing – Contact Email Address: [email protected] or [email protected] 

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About the Acute Care NP Career

Acute Care Nurse Practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses that are certified in acute care, pediatric acute care, and/or adult-gerontology acute care. 

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) offers board certification to acute care nurse practitioners.

Often this role is confused with Family Nurse Practitioners; however, the difference is that ACNPs see patients when they are sick, admitted to the hospital, or after a surgical procedure and/or trauma. 

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), some interesting facts regarding Acute Care NPs include:

  • The top clinical focus areas of NPs certified in adult-gerontology acute care are critical care, cardiovascular, and hospitalist
  • The top practice settings of NPs certified in adult-gerontology acute care are hospital inpatient units and hospital outpatient clinics
  • The top diagnoses treated by AGACNPs are hypertension, heart failure, and diabetes

Where Can Acute Care NPs Work?

Acute Care NPs can work in a variety of locations including, 

  • Emergency Room
  • Intensive care Unit
  • Medical or Surgical Unit
  • Nursing home or skilled nursing facility
  • Operating Room
  • Outpatient or Inpatient Subspecialty Practice
    • Cardiology
    • Pulmonology
    • Neurology
    • Interventional radiology
    • Cardiothoracic surgery
  • Sub-acute units
  • Trauma Unites
  • Urgent Care Clinic

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Are Acute Care NPs in Demand?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment opportunities for all nurse practitioners would grow by 45% between 2020 and 2030. This is much faster than the national average of other healthcare-related professions including Registered Nurses. 

As of 2020, there were 220,300 advanced practice nurses with an expected need of an additional 114,900 by 2030. Additionally, as the healthcare industry continues to change there will continue to be a need for ACNPs. 

What to Expect in an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program

Before you can become an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, you’ll first need to become a Registered Nurse by either completing an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). ADN-prepared nurses will either need to complete an RN-to-BSN program before furthering their education, or enter into an RN-to-NP program where they can earn both degrees at the same time. 

Program Prerequisites

Though every Acute Care Nurse Practitioner degree program is different, most have similar entry requirements, which generally include:

  • At least one year of acute care bedside nursing experience
  • Completion of undergraduate statistics with a grade of C or better
  • GRE if applicable
  • Professional resume or curriculum vitae
  • Satisfactory completion of an accredited baccalaureate program with at least 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale
  • Submission of official transcripts from all postsecondary schools attended
  • Successful completion of a personal interview with the Nursing Admissions Committee
  • TOEFL test if applicable
  • Two or three professional references
  • Unencumbered, active RN license in the state of practice (Some programs will require an RN license in the state of the program)
  • Written statement of professional goals for graduate study and nursing career

What Will You Learn in an AGACNP Program? 

Acute Care NP programs adhere to the Nurse Practitioner framework and core competencies established by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) for Nurse Practitioners. Those nine competencies are:

  • Ethics
  • Health Delivery System
  • Independent Practice
  • Leadership
  • Policy
  • Practice Inquiry
  • Quality
  • Scientific Foundation
  • Technology and Information Literacy

Acute Care NP Courses

Specific courses in an Acute Care NP program generally include, 

  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Advanced Physical Assessment
  • Child and Family Development
  • Clinical Practicums
  • Diagnostic Reasoning and Clinical Decision-Making for Acute Care Advanced Practice Nurse 
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Health Informatics
  • Health Policy, Legal and Ethical Dimensions of Practice
  • Leadership and Critical Decision Making
  • Role of the Advanced Practice Nurse

How Much Do Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs Cost?

Acute Care NP programs vary greatly in cost. Factors include school, location, online versus in person, and ultimate degree. 

  • Cost per credit hour can vary between $500 to $2,000 depending on the program. The total credit hours required also vary between 35-60 for different programs. This means that the total cost for an ACNP program can range anywhere from $17,500 to $120,000 in total. 
  • Doctoral-level programs tend to be more expensive than master’s degree programs, in part because more credits are required overall. 
  • Tuition costs also include program fees, lab fees, course materials, and other associated expenses. 

Examples of credit cost include:

  • Thomas Jefferson University – $1,165 / credit 
  • DeSales University – $910 / credit 
  • University of Virginia – In State: $799 / credit Out-of-state: $1,304 / credit
  • Chamberlain University – $675 / credit 

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How Long is an Acute Care NP Program?

Total credit hours are between 35-60 depending on the program in addition to a minimum of 500 clinical hours. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP) require all nurse practitioners to complete the aforementioned number of clinical hours; however, some states and programs will require more hours. If a student earns their DNP through the program the number of required credit hours will be more. DNP programs require a minimum of 1,000 clinical hours. 

A program can be completed in two to three years and most on a part-time or full-time basis. The length of the program can also depend on if the program is online or traditional in person. Most programs will allow students up to five years to complete a program. Completing a program depends on a variety of factors especially if you will be working or not throughout the duration of the program. 

Accreditation for AGACNP Programs

When choosing an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program, you’ll want to make sure it’s been accredited by one of the two main accreditation bodies in the United States are as follows:

  • The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), formerly known as the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, is an organization designed to support nursing education and ensure it is done in a safe, reliable, and consistent manner. 

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is considered the voice of academic nursing in America and contributes to the overall safety of the public’s health. This accreditation committee supports the continuous self-assessment of national programs to ensure quality education is delivered to all nursing students.  

How to Pick the Right Acute Care NP Program for You

Picking the right Acute Care NP program can be overwhelming especially with the increasing number of available programs throughout the country. Online programs have given access to top-tier programs for those that are unable to relocate. 

The most important determining factor when choosing a program is understanding if the state in which you reside allows students to enroll in distance education programs and therefore participate in clinical practicums within the state. 

It is important to check with your state board of nursing to see if your state allows this. Licensure requirements vary from state to state and by a professional organization.  Any questions regarding state eligibility you can also contact the University’s Office of Enrollment and Student Affairs.

Other things you should consider are:

  • Do you qualify for the prerequisites?
  • Is the program accredited?
  • What is the graduate certification rate?
  • Does your current job have an affiliation with a specific program?
  • Do you prefer obtaining your MSN or DNP?
  • Do you want a program that will find your clinical placements?
  • How will I pay for the degree? Loans? Scholarships? Tuition Reimbursement?
  • Is there program flexibility?
  • Online versus in person?
  • What is the job placement rate?
  • What is your goal after graduation? Hospital? Private practice?

 

https://nurse.org/education/top-acute-care-nurse-practitioner-programs/

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