What Exactly Does an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Do?

By Nina Mosely

October 3, 2018

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What Exactly Does an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Do?

Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

While most people are familiar with the term FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner) at this point in time, when approached with the title AGNP (Adult-Gerontology NP), it can get a bit confusing. By the name alone, you would think that this designation deals with geriatrics, which is the treatment of elderly patients.

However, that isn’t always the case. Although an AGNP may specialize in geriatrics, they may also deal with patients ranging from adolescents through all stages of adulthood up to and including geriatric patients. From there, it can get even more confusing because there are also two different focuses in an AGNP degree. If you are looking at Nursing School Programs, this might be a career goal for you to pursue.

Two Different AGNP Credentials

As an advanced practice nurse, the first thing you need to know is that you are required to have a BS in nursing prior to attending graduate school. Many applicants to an AGNP program have worked as an RN for several years before pursuing an advanced degree. As an AGNP, you can specialize in acute care or in primary care, and the focus is totally different in both designations.

With a specialization in acute care, you will most often be working with inpatients at hospitals. These AGNPs focus on treating patients who are ill. As a primary care AGNP, you will be focusing on a patient population who aren’t usually ill, and your focus will be to keep them well. This is just a broad understanding because as a practitioner, you will be treating ill patients who see you at your office, but they will not be considered acute care patients until they are admitted into a hospital.

Addressing the Confusion in the Nursing Designation of AGNP

Once someone sees the words gerontology or geriatrics, they assume this nurse practitioner only deals with the elderly. Since they will be licensed to see patients from adolescence onward, the only patients an AGNP will not deal with are infants and children up to adolescence. Younger patients would see an FNP, and that Family Nurse Practitioner may, or may not, specialize in children.

The Role of an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Practitioner

Since you know that an AG-ACNP (Acute Care NP specializing in adult-gerontology) deals with patients in a hospital setting, the focus of your training will be on:

  • Stabilizing the patient’s condition
  • Preventing any complications
  • Restoring maximum health
  • Providing palliative care

This is according to the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Competencies, as established by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Tasks may include such things as making a diagnosis, prescribing medications, and monitoring the patient throughout his or her stay in the hospital. Upon being released, an AG-ACNP may also make referrals to specialists as needed.

The Role of an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-PCNP)

While an AG-ACNP will focus on treating inpatients, an AG-PCNP will primarily focus on keeping their patients well with an emphasis on promoting healthy choices. AG-PCNPs may work in clinics throughout the community, but they may also carry on their own private practice as well.

The focus of an AGNP in a primary care setting will be to improve outcomes within the population they have chosen to serve. They may be required to manage chronic illnesses, as opposed to acute care AGNPs who focus on helping their patients recover from acute illnesses of abbreviated duration.

Bringing Your Nursing Skillset Forward as an AGNP

As an increasing number of people within the general population begin understanding exactly what an AGNP is and what it is they do, many more nurses will be needed to fill these two roles. At the time, the AGNP designation is somewhere in the shadow of an FNP simply because most people equate the designation with the treatment of the elderly.

Perhaps when this confusion is better addressed, those nursing skills that made you who you are will be in high demand as an AGNP. Consider for just a moment how most patients describe their doctors. You usually won’t hear them talking about all those letters behind their titles and you won’t hear them talking about the rapidity in which they made an accurate diagnosis. For the most part, you will hear patients describing their doctor’s “bedside manner.” As a nurse, you have what it takes to communicate on a better level with the patients you see.

It would be nice if medicals schools required their doctors to work on the floor with patient care before licensing them as medical doctors, but, that will never happen. Some doctors have a special personality that helps them engage well with patients and others are simply too busy being a doctor. As a nurse, you have learned both sides of the fence and that is what you can bring with you to this new level of nursing. If your primary focus is on adolescents and adults of any age, an AGNP degree is for you.

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