Exploring the Specializations Within Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs

Exploring the Specializations Within Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs

Nurses with acute care experience are highly sought for their expertise in various healthcare settings. These nurses often specialize in specific conditions or sub-specialties during their MSN or DNP acute care nurse practitioner program.

These nurses often work long hours and may be on-call at a moment’s notice. They are dedicated to helping patients through their medical journeys and empowering them to manage their health.

Pain Management

Pursuing online acute care nurse practitioner programs can be a transformative experience, enabling you to make a significant impact on critically ill patients in dynamic healthcare settings. Pain management is an essential component of health care. Most physicians and health care professionals do some pain management, but for more complex cases or chronic pain, many turn to specialists in pain medicine.

Pain is a complex experience, with each person responding to it differently. It comes from messages between the brain and specialized nerves, and it may feel sharp or dull, burning or aching. It may last for a short period, or it might be persistent and recur, such as with fibromyalgia or cancer-related pain.

Most patients with chronic pain will go through a step-wise treatment plan, starting with medications like acetaminophen or NSAIDs and then progressing to more potent opioids. It can be done in an outpatient pain clinic or a hospital.

Cardiac Care

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in America, and cardiac nurse practitioners are vital to keeping people at risk of heart disease safe. As such, cardiac care is a unique specialization that allows nurses to help patients live longer, healthier lives.

Cardiac nurse practitioners often work in a hospital’s intensive care unit, where they may treat clients who have experienced life-threatening heart conditions like cardiac arrest. They may also collaborate with cardiologists to administer medications and perform medical procedures.

Since advanced practice RNs are broadly educated as generalists, and current curriculums do not incorporate critical care specialty training into their education, many APRNs pursue post-graduate certificate programs, fellowships, or residencies to specialize in acute care. These programs are typically shorter than traditional graduate-level nursing programs.

Critical Care

Acute care nurses work in critical environments and are responsible for patients with life-threatening conditions and medical and emotional care. These nurses must possess good communication skills, endless compassion, and an ability to concentrate in a stressful environment.

If you want to make a difference in the lives of others, an online acute care nurse practitioner program may be the right fit for you. Typically offered at the MSN or DNP level, these programs require students to complete a combination of asynchronous and synchronous learning and clinical and simulation experiences. For example, the MSN-to-DNP Online Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program from the School of Nursing enables students to practice in acute inpatient settings after graduating. It also prepares graduates for national professional certification.

Emergency Care

In some countries, ambulances crewed by paramedics and emergency medical technicians take patients who experience out-of-hospital emergencies directly to hospital emergency departments (called ’emergency wards’ or ’emergency centers’). In these facilities, which are often more significant than a typical doctor’s office, nurses work under the guidance of emergency physicians.

In emergency care, nurse practitioners address acute illnesses and injuries – characterized by symptoms that threaten a patient’s life, limb, or eyesight. It includes medical conditions such as heart attacks, gunshot wounds, major motor vehicle accidents, severe allergic reactions, and bleeding that doesn’t stop with 10 minutes of pressure.

Many ACNPs specialize in a particular subspecialty of acute care during their graduate-level studies. It can be achieved through advanced nursing classes and clinical hours specific to that area.


Pediatrics focuses on the health of kids from birth through adolescence. You’ll treat a variety of pathologies, including infections, neonatal issues like hyperbilirubinemia and failure to thrive, and metabolic problems, among other issues.

Hematology/oncology is a subspecialty that treats kids with blood cancers and non-cancerous blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease. This is primarily an inpatient specialty.

For nurses who love the idea of making an impact on children early in their lives that can compound over a lifetime, pediatrics might be your ideal specialty. This is an excellent choice for nurses looking for a more family-friendly lifestyle, as there are many opportunities to work in smaller towns. 

Rohit Raina
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