What Is The Difference Between An Acute Care Nurse Practitioner And A Family Nurse Practitioner?

Acute care nurse practitioners and family nurse practitioners are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), who evaluate, listen, and care for patients.
The main role for both acute and family nurse practitioners is to sit with a patient or family member of the patient to discuss family health history. A patient with health issues will be physically examined by the nurse practitioner and determine if any laboratory testing is necessary. Laboratory tests may include urine tests, blood tests, or imaging tests. Nurse practitioners will analyze and interpret the testing results in order to determine a medical diagnosis. Nurse practitioners are able to order laboratory exams for patients and prescribe a patient medication. Nurse practitioners work closely with patients in order to provide them with care, while collaborating with doctors, if necessary, to formulate a proper healthcare plan for the patient.

The initial, educational training for both acute care nurse practitioners and family nurse practitioners is the same, as they must obtain their Bachelor’s degree in Nursing (BSN). Throughout a nurse’s academic coursework, a nursing student will explore topics such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biology, pharmacology, and medical terminology. The bulk of their nursing academic coursework will include hands-on, clinical training at a healthcare facility. A nurse’s clinical training will be absolutely vital to their learning, as a nursing student will be working directly with patients, while learning how to properly care for a patient. Once a nurse has completed their Bachelor’s degree, it is imperative that they obtain their nursing license. In order to become a Registered Nurse (RN), they will need to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

In order to become an acute care nurse practitioner or a family nurse practitioner, a licensed, registered nurse will have to obtain a Master’s degree in Nursing, with a focus in acute care or family care. Many components of a nurse’s graduate degree will be similar, in that they will explore topics such as patho-physiology, epidemiology, advanced pharmacology, patient care management, nursing research, and advanced physical assessment.

Acute care nurse practitioners are responsible for working with serious or critical care patients. Acute care nurse practitioner’s coursework will take two to three years to complete, very similar to that of a family nurse practitioner’s coursework. Acute care nurse practitioner coursework will focus on mass casualty care, chronic healthcare management, differential diagnosis, economics of healthcare, and biostatistics. Furthermore, throughout acute care nurse practitioner graduate coursework, an acute care nurse practitioner will need to complete acute care clinical rotations, which will provide them with hands-on learning in the areas of aging, diseases, laboratory testing, EKG monitoring, health assessments, and pharmacology. Upon completion of the Master’s degree, a nurse practitioner will need to become a certified, acute care nurse practitioner. In order to become certified, they will need to sit for the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner certification. The ACNP certification requires that a nurse has already obtained their Registered Nursing license, Master’s degree, and coursework in disease management and health promotion. Once a nurse has passed the exam, acquired their Master’s degree, and have the proper amount of clinical training, they will be able to legally practice as an acute care nurse practitioner.

A family nurse practitioner is responsible for treating patients throughout the various stages of their young and adult life. From pregnancy, childbirth, and geriatrics, a family nurse practitioner will provide their patients with advanced nursing care. Family nurse practitioner coursework will discuss topics such as pharmacology for children and elderly, family health management, geriatric care, pediatric care, gynecology, and obstetrics. Additionally, throughout a family nurse practitioner’s coursework, they will need to complete family care clinical rotations, which will provide them with intensive, hands-on learning in various areas of family care. Once a family nurse practitioner has completed their Master’s degree, they will need to become certified in order to practice professionally. In order to become certified, they will need to sit for the Family Nurse Practitioner Certification exam. The FNP exam requires that a nurse has already obtain their Registered Nurse license, graduate from an accredited program, and have coursework in disease management and differential diagnosis. Once a family nurse practitioner has passed their exam, they will be able to practice as a legal, family nurse practitioner.

Career Spotlight: Nurse Practitioner

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