How to Become a Nurse in America's Acute Care System

Nurse monitoring a patient having  difficulty breathing

Critically ill patients are cared for by acute care nurses, highly skilled and trained nurses working in acute care or hospital setting in the US. Patients who need pre-and post-operative care, have experienced severe illness or trauma, or have other urgent medical conditions are included in acute care. 

Acute care registered nurses concentrate on enhancing a patient's health through prompt intervention in time-critical situations. Acute care RNs typically work with fewer patients at a time due to the nature of the critical care setting, but these patients may require complex monitoring and ongoing vigilance. Here’s how you can be part of America’s highly skilled acute care delivery team.

What to expect

The work is demanding and unpredictable, frequently requiring prompt intervention and snap judgments. Due to the growing elderly, active population with chronic conditions, as well as a nurse shortage throughout the healthcare system, it is also one of the nursing positions with the highest demand.

Acute care nurses can advance their careers in a variety of ways. While some become experts in fields like pediatrics or cardiac care, others eventually obtain their advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license. Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) and nurse practitioners both play leadership roles for APRNs who can deliver primary care (NP).

Qualities and skills of an acute care nurse

The ability to be kind, compassionate and patient is essential for acute care professionals as they work with many patients who present with a variety of conditions. Acute nurses may work with patients who have dementia or learning disabilities, which calls for excellent communication abilities. Nurses should be ready to respond quickly, on their feet, and adapt to the demands of ongoing medical situations given the fluid nature of the position.

Salary of an acute care nurse

Your salary as an APRN or acute care nurse will depend on your position, training, and experience. There will also be influences based on where you live and work. Although the median annual wage for registered nurses is $77,600, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not separately break out the median pay for acute care nurses.

How to be part of the acute care team

Acute care nursing requires commitment, coursework, training, and certification. Prior to beginning your career, you must obtain your nursing credentials, such as a license or certification as a registered nurse (RN) or an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). To obtain these credentials, one may be required to hold a nursing degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Acute care nurses typically need at least two years of experience working in a hospital or acute care setting. By doing so, you will be able to develop abilities like critical thinking, communication, and quick thinking that will help you get ready for a career in this field.

Once you've received your certification, you can take your exam. You can get the resources you need from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses to help you study for the exam.

Start by going to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses website, which has information on this career path and resources to support you in achieving your professional aspirations, if you are interested in learning more about the field.

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