Online Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs and Courses

Oct 20, 2021

Essential Information

Acute care nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses who provide short-term care for people with illnesses or injuries. Most acute care nursing programs are part of a Master of Science in Nursing program. Prior to enrollment in one of these programs students need to have licensure as a registered nurse (RN).

Courses in an acute care nurse practitioner program include pharmacology, biostatistics, pathophysiology and research methods. These programs are most often offered as a hybrid program, and students may have to visit campus to meet with instructors or attend seminars, while clinical requirements can usually be completed in a facility close to the student's home. However, students may find Master's of Science in Nursing programs offered fully online that have acute care specializations as a program option.

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

The majority of nursing schools tend to include acute care nurse practitioner (ACNP) certification training as a specialization or track within the curriculum for the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program. Subsequently, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and active registered nurse (RN) license are typical prerequisites. However, some programs permit students to attain both the BSN and RN training as part of the ACNP course of study. Graduates are formally recognized as advanced practice nurses (APNs) and are prepared to sit for the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner National Certification Exam.

Program Information and Requirements

A computer with Internet connection is a basic technical requirement of the program. Students are able to communicate with fellow students and the instructor in various ways, including e-mail, online chat room sessions and message boards within the school's online learning website. There may be some flexibility with course sequence, but there is a general order in which courses are taken. Master of Science in Nursing programs generally aren't offered fully online, and students can expect to complete clinical experiences and other hands-on training in person or on campus.

Common Course Descriptions

ACNPs specialize in the treatment of critically ill patients and much of the required coursework reflects this. Many classes build upon skills learned in previous nursing degree programs, whereas others delve more specifically into acute care clinical theories and methods.

Foundations of Advanced Nursing Practice

This introductory course provides a broad overview and critique of many different types of advanced nursing theories. Methods of effectively implementing these theories and research into practice are also discussed.

Advanced Pharmacology

This course is designed to build upon the basic pharmacology education that students are expected to possess at the start of the class. The application of scientific knowledge to various clinical situations within the scope of the ACNP is the curriculum's primary focus.


Students are introduced to the fundamentals of biostatistics - the application of statistics to various topics in biology - as it relates to the nursing profession. Students complete lessons within typical spreadsheet and statistical analysis program formats.

Research Methods

Upon completion of this course, students should be capable of analyzing and interpreting research findings relevant to ACNPs, using the methods discussed throughout the class. The advancement of nursing practices, general clinical issues with possible solutions and the improvement of quality of healthcare in general are typical topics of interest for research purposes.

Advanced Pathophysiology

This course begins with the expectation that students have already acquired an appropriate basic nursing education in pathophysiology, and proceeds to build upon that knowledge at an advanced level. Relevant case studies and other teaching tools are utilized by the instructor in explaining how to assess, diagnose and manage patients. By course completion, students have learned how to apply learned pathophysiologic concepts to various health problems.

Employment Statistics and Career Outlook

Per, the national average income for nurse practitioners who focus in a specialty area like acute care is $108,696 yearly. Salaries can vary greatly depending on location. The salaries for these nurses ranged from $102,501 - $116,512 per year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall job opportunities for all registered nurses are expected to be excellent, with 371,500 new jobs expected to become available between 2018 and 2028 (

Continuing Education

Continuing education is required by law for all practicing nurses, including ACNPs. Attainable in the form of continuing education units (CEUs), requirements vary from state to state. Some employers may require ACNPs to maintain CEUs above and beyond state minimums.

RNs wanting to specialize in acute care may get the training they need form a MSN program. Some MSN programs may be offered fully online. Master's level nursing programs may offer much of the course work online, but typically include some in-person requirements.

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