Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners (AGNP): A Day in the Life

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners (AGNP): A Day in the Life

Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners draw on advanced training to provide clinical care for young adults, older adults, and the elderly. AGNPs may serve as primary or acute care providers.

Among the most in-demand professionals in the nation, graduate-educated nurses enjoy abundant job prospects. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 45% job growth for nurse practitioners from 2019-2029.

On this page, we explore the adult-gerontology nurse practitioner role. We cover topics including job duties, work locations, and ways to prepare for this challenging and rewarding career.

What Is an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner?

Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners can choose between two career pathways: acute care and primary care. Acute care AGNPs diagnose and treat present illnesses. Primary care AGNPs focus on preventing illness and promoting lifelong health.

Both types of AGNP careers require a current RN license, a master’s degree, and state licensure as an NP. Most acute care nursing programs require applicants to demonstrate 1-2 years of relevant experience.

Visit the pages linked below to learn more about the AGNP scope of practice and how this career compares to other advanced practice nursing positions.

What Does a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner Do?

The primary goal of an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner is to promote their patients’ lifetime health. NPs hold many of the same responsibilities as physicians, including assessing and diagnosing health issues, prescribing medications, discussing treatment options, and providing preventive health education.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that older Americans will account for approximately 20% of the national population by 2030. Though the number of aging Americans is on the rise, just 1.8% of nurse practitioners specialize in gerontology and only 7% specialize in adult-gerontology, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

Adult-gerontology NPs may specialize in primary care or acute care. One of the most significant differences between primary and acute care AGNPs lies in their relationships with patients. Primary care nurses may see their patients multiple times a year over the course of their lives, while acute care professionals treat many different patients in need of immediate care.

According to their specialization and work environment, adult-gerontology NPs frequently interact with physicians, registered nurses, nursing assistants, pharmacists, and other members of a facility’s care team.

Below, we detail both common and infrequent duties you may encounter as an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner.

Main Duties of an Adult-Gerontology NP

  • Diagnosing and Treating Illnesses: Like physicians, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners are licensed to diagnose and treat chronic and acute illnesses and injuries. This process may involve discussing symptoms and medical history, ordering diagnostic tests, and analyzing gathered information. In developing care plans, AGNPs may prescribe medication, order non-pharmacological therapies, and refer patients to other specialists.
  • Providing Routine Checkups: Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners sometimes serve as primary care providers. In these cases, AGNPs may meet with a patient several times a year. During these routine visits, AGNPs review medical history, diagnose and manage chronic conditions, and aid in health transitions as patients age.
  • Considering Patient Backgrounds: In all aspects of care, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners must consider patient background, including social, economic, environmental, family, military, travel, and occupational factors. Obtaining and documenting this information enables AGNPs to better identify health risks, understand health needs, and evaluate caregiver competencies.
  • Educating Patients and Families: Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners spend much of their time educating and counseling patients and families on present health issues, treatment plan options, and preventative care measures. Their responsibilities include describing and discussing different procedures, teaching caregivers how to perform at-home treatments, and counseling patients on chronic disease management.
  • Coordinating with Other Health Professionals: In both primary and acute care contexts, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners frequently communicate with physicians, other nurses, nursing assistants, and health professionals who work at other facilities. AGNPs must coordinate with all of these team members to ensure patients receive appropriate and timely care.

Nonstandard Duties for Adult-Gerontology NPs

  • Working as Educators: In addition to educating patients, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners can also serve as educators to others. Educator opportunities AGNPs can pursue include working with nursing school students completing clinical experience requirements or providing independent consulting services to attorneys working on medical cases.
  • Connecting with Patients via Telehealth: Telehealth and telemedicine technology enables patients and care providers to connect remotely. Some adult-gerontology nurse practitioners work exclusively in telemedicine roles. Other practitioners use telehealth technology as an occasional supplement to in-office appointments, while some nurse practitioners may not use telehealth at all.
  • Visiting Patient Homes: Millions of older Americans experience difficulty accessing necessary healthcare services. A growing number of adult-gerontology nurse practitioners are helping to fill this gap by offering home visits or specializing exclusively in home-care practice. Home care can decrease costs, lower infection risk, and improve care outcomes.
  • Leading Community Health Efforts: As patient advocates, primary care adult-gerontology nurse practitioners participate in local community-based health efforts. AGNPs contribute their expertise to public policy discussions, promote equitable and affordable access to care, and support patient and family rights in healthcare decision-making.
  • Conducting or Participating in Research: Nurse practitioners across all specialities, including adult-gerontology, may conduct or participate in research studies during the course of their careers. Related activities include developing clinical research questions, improving quality of care based on evidence-based practice, and incorporating system changes in practice.

The Anatomy of a Typical Day as an AGNP

Both workplace environment and specialization (acute or primary care) influence an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner’s typical day.

Many acute care AGNPs work in inpatient settings like hospitals and clinics. These workplaces’ shift-based schedules require irregular, extended hours, including nights and on-call periods. Conversely, primary care AGNPs often work in private practice environments, which commonly provide regular work hours from 8 AM-5 PM, Monday through Friday.

Regardless of when they arrive at work, common daily tasks for AGNPs include:

  • Reviewing patient charts at the start of the day/shift
  • Gathering patient information and medical history
  • Meeting with patients and families to discuss concerns
  • Ordering diagnostic tests and/or consulting with physicians and specialists
  • Diagnosing illnesses, injuries, and conditions
  • Prescribing medication or nonpharmacological treatments

As in most healthcare occupations, collaboration is a key part of the adult-gerontological nurse practitioner’s job. Both primary and acute care AGNPs interact frequently with other healthcare providers and staff members, including physicians, nurses, medical assistants, and therapists. As advanced nursing practitioners, AGNPs assume leadership roles and delegate tasks to others as needed.

Where Adult-Gerontological Nurse Practitioners Work

Nurse practitioners can obtain licenses to practice across the United States. However, individual state rules and regulations regarding NP practice vary. Some states permit nurse practitioners to complete all elements of practice without restriction, while others limit NP authority. In some locations, AGNPs must maintain career-long supervision in order to legally provide patient care.

Work location for NPs typically depends on specialization. Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners who provide acute care usually work in hospitals and urgent care settings, while primary care AGNPs may work in physician offices or their own private practice. Some AGNPs provide specialized care to homebound individuals or residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners working in acute care settings typically earn higher salaries than AGNPs who specialize in primary care. According to 2019 survey data from AANP, primary care AGNPs earn a median annual salary of $112,000, while acute care AGNPs earn a median of $118,000.

Nurse practitioners typically earn the most when employed in emergency rooms, Veterans Affairs facilities, and inpatient hospitals. Lower-paying areas include college and university health, hospice/palliative care, and community health. Larger population sizes correlate with higher pay, meaning that urban centers typically offer more lucrative opportunities than rural areas.

See How Location Affects Salary for AGNPs

Should You Become an Adult-Gerontological Nurse Practitioner?

Becoming an adult-gerontological NP allows nursing professionals to significantly expand their scope of practice and their ability to impact patients’ lives. For many nurses, becoming a nurse practitioner means earning higher wages and gaining access to work opportunities currently expanding across the country.

Most master’s-level AGNP programs only accept applicants with at least one year of experience, so RNs interested in becoming an AGNP should seek out work opportunities that provide relevant experience in their chosen clinical area. Earning an NP master’s also requires completing upwards of 500 clinical experience hours.

Embarking on a nurse practitioner career can present challenges such as the mixed legislation surrounding NP practice in many states. These regulations can limit an NP’s authority to provide patient care without another health provider’s supervision.

How to Become an Adult-Gerontology NP

How to Prepare for a Career as an AGNP

To become a nurse practitioner, professionals typically need to fulfill the following requirements:

  • Completed bachelor of science in nursing
  • Current RN license
  • At least one year of work experience
  • Completed master’s degree in nursing
  • Pass national board certification exam
  • Obtain NP state licensure

While you can complete your master of science in nursing in person, many aspiring AGNPs opt to earn their degree online. Remote programs provide maximum flexibility for students who want to maintain their current employment while studying.

Progressing to an advanced nursing career requires you to commit substantial time, money, and mental energy. To reduce the strain of juggling school and work requirements, create a firm study schedule, always plan ahead, and seek out opportunities to learn on the job.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to become an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner?

    AGNPs need a master’s degree, which typically requires a prerequisite bachelor’s in nursing. Nurse practitioners can expect to spend approximately six years completing these education requirements. Many AGNP master’s programs also require at least one year of work experience.

  • Which is better, FNP or AGNP?

    Choosing between an FNP or AGNP career depends on your goals and priorities. Nurses without a clinical interest in pediatrics may prefer an AGNP career. However, family nurse practitioners often find jobs more easily because they can serve broader populations.

  • Are AGNP programs difficult?

    AGNP programs consist of several classroom courses and extensive clinical experience requirements. Motivated students with proper academic and professional training may thrive among the rigorous challenges of an AGNP program.

  • What is the scope of practice for an AGNP?

    The AGNP scope of practice includes providing preventative care and assessing, diagnosing, and treating acute or chronic illnesses. Specific job duties vary depending on whether the AGNP works in acute or primary care.

  • What is the highest paying NP specialty?

    According to recent survey data by AANP, the highest median salaries of $135,000 per year go to psychiatric and emergency care NPs. Primary care and acute care AGNPs earn median salaries of $112,000 and $118,000, respectively.


Featured Image: Zoran Zeremski / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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