Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nursing FAQs

Where can I work after graduation?
The Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) provides care to patients who are physiologically unstable, technologically dependent, or highly vulnerable to complications, requiring frequent monitoring and intervention. Most ACNPs work in acute care sites such as a hospitals, emergency rooms, or combinations of specialty offices and hospitals. Cardiology and oncology are more common office/hospital settings but could be a variety of specialties. With the expansion of hospitalists roles such combinations are less frequent. The scope is not site specific however but rather function. There are two types of certification as ACNPs, adult-gerontology and pediatric. The program offered at UTHSC is the adult-gerontology ACNP, so the preparation is for patients across the adult lifespan. The scope of practice for ACNPs is determined by individual state legislation although rules and regulations vary. Most scope of practice is based on both education and experience. The best place to explore individual scope of practice issues is to look to the State Board of Nursing for guidance not the setting manager or physician in a practice. A listing of contact information for individual state boards of nursing can be found at: https://www.ncsbn.org/index.htm

How long is the program?
The length of the program depends on your background. DNP student’s program length depends on any graduate studies completed or if they are currently APNs. The range is 18 months to 3 years. Please see the links to the various program plans of studies.

Can I go part time, full time?
The program is a full-time plan of study. Currently a part-time plan of study is available only for those students who are already APNs.

Can I work while going to school?
The UT program is a rigorous full-time program. The program includes significant clinical hours. For this reason, students are cautioned about trying to work full-time. Each student is an individual with individual family/personal responsibilities and support. If work is essential, students are encouraged to explore flexible part-time employment. Students are also encouraged to save or bank vacation or other leave that can be used to lessen work during the program. Clinical placement is outside of the student’s current work environment.

How much will this program cost?
Tuition costs are determined by in-state or out-of-state status and may change during the program. Tuition and fee information can be found at http://www.uthsc.edu/finaid/Nursing.php. Additionally, the Educational Common Market may be available for some out-of-state students. Information on this program can be obtained at the Office of Financial Aid. Many employers also offer tuition reimbursement even for part-time employees. Additionally, students will need to make arrangements for travel and hotel accommodations during the oncampus experiences. Financial aid information is available through http://www.uthsc.edu/finaid/Nursing.php. Students should also explore the many private scholarship funds available for graduate study in their communities, region, state and nation. A Google search of graduate nursing scholarships will produce vast opportunities. Many diverse groups offer scholarship programs and some states and organizations also have loan repayment programs for nursing education. There are also federal government grants for nursing students.

Deciding on graduate education is similar to buying a car. I am often taken aback that people will do more research when buying and financing a new car then they do in selecting a graduate program and degree. Remember that you want to select a vehicle that will take you to your professional goals and will last a lifetime. There are multiple models and each has many features or accessories. There are also many ways to finance this type of purchase and they should all be investigated and select the one that best suits your needs and financial situation. One thing to remember is that graduate education will cost about the same as a mid-priced vehicle. A vehicle will start to lose value the minute you take possession. A graduate degree will continue to retain or increase its value through your professional life.

What books, equipment and supplies will I need?
Book purchases will vary by semester. Many books specific to the ACNP will be used in multiple semesters. Textbooks are supplemented with electronic media, much of which is available in the library for the students at no cost. Students will also need adequate computer hardware and Internet access. Students will need basic health assessment equipment including an otoscope, ophthalmic scope and an electronic high quality stethoscope. Students generally do not have clinical their first semester and are encouraged to wait to purchase this equipment closer to their first clinical course. Requirements do change as the quality of this equipment continually advances. Lab coats will be required for clinical experiences but the specifications do periodically change.

Where/when do I do my clinical experiences?
Clinical experiences are interspersed through out the program and vary by track, option and student background. Clinical experience hours are noted in the plan of study. One credit of clinical experience equates to 60 clinical clock hours. To determine the number of clinical hours simply multiply the credits in the plan of study by 60. Clinical hours do not include on-campus experiences, conferences, travel or mealtime.

How do I find a clinical site?
The faculty has an extensive list of highly qualified preceptors and will place most students in clinical experiences that offer opportunities to meet the course outcomes. Students who live outside of the Memphis area will work with the clinical course faculty to identify appropriate clinical sites. Relatives may not serve as preceptors for students. Clinical contracts are complex and time consuming so; it is important to start this process ASAP.

Do I have to come to campus?
On-campus experiences are scheduled three times a year. They last about 1 week each with the specific weeks identified a year in advance. On-campus experiences are mandatory. A schedule is published for the year at our academic calendar section. The on-campus week details are published before the week begins but are always subject to change.

What is going to school online like?
Online education is very popular as it offers the student the opportunity to stay at home while learning. In today’s economic climate with rising gas prices this can be a real cost saver. It is more flexible than most traditional class schedules, so in many cases you can attend classes day or night, whichever is more accommodating to your style of learning. You can attend class around other obligations in most cases. Some online educational experiences are scheduled at a designated time, so you will have some structure. Online education takes discipline and selfmotivation; it is not for everyone. Online education is also more interactive; no more sitting in the back of the class listening to someone lecture. Rather, class learning is full of reading and discussing among the learners with guidance from the faculty. Keyboard skills are very handy in this environment. Since communication is primarily written, strong grammar and writing skills are a plus. Online learning can be lonesome but there are certainly opportunities online and during the on-campus weeks to get to know your colleagues and to develop strong professional relationships. While online learning is not for everyone, it is gaining in popularity. It has an excellent reputation for providing high quality educational opportunities. The Faculty at UTHSC are some of the first educators in the nation to integrate this paradigm and have an excellent reputation for this type of learning.

Is there anything I can do to get ready for class?
You could shadow an ACNP for a day or two. Learn as much as you can about the role by meeting APNs and visiting the local and national web sites or meetings.

Find and visit your local NP group meetings. The Greater Memphis Area APN group web page is: https://gmaapn.enpnetwork.com.

Obtain a diagnostic of your learning style. There are numerous online engines that offer this service at no cost, simply Google the phrase – learning style assessment- to locate these instruments. This can also be done at UT at the learning resource center but you may also find this type of service locally in learning centers, high schools, etc. Discovering how you learn best will be helpful in optimizing your study time during the program.

Get out your undergraduate physical assessment book. Dust it off and start to review the head to toe physical exam skills that you may have forgotten.

Evaluate your family, community and work commitments and prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. The program will take a significant amount of time and energy. You do not have to quit your family or community commitments but you do need to be realistic about how much effort you can commit to during school. You don’t have to say no but rather not at this time.

What is the difference between APNs and ACNPs?
APN, advance practice nurse, is an umbrella term that encompasses Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Anesthetists, Clinical Nurse Specialists and Nurse Midwives. This term is often protected by individual state regulation. ACNP, Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, is a type of nurse practitioner that provides care to patients who are physiologically unstable, technologically dependent, or highly vulnerable to complications, requiring frequent monitoring and intervention. The ACNP’s scope of practice varies by state. You can review your state's rules and regulation accessing the information at the individual State Board of Nursing web sites http://www.ncsbn.org/index.htm.

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DNP Acute Care Nursing
Contact Information

Donna J. Lynch-Smith, DNP, RN, ACNP-BC, APN, NE-BC
Assistant Professor and Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Concentration Coordinator
Department of Advanced Practice and Doctoral Studies
920 Madison, #944
Memphis, TN 38163
901-448-4152

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