There are a number of different specialties that a nurse practitioner can choose to pursue, depending on what his or her interests are — from mental health and psychiatry to women's health or pediatric nursing. One of the broadest credentials a nurse practitioner can earn is in a branch of adult-gerontology: either acute care or primary care.
An adult-gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP) in acute care works with patients throughout their adult life who suffer from acute illnesses or injuries. An AGNP in primary care also works with a broad patient population that includes adults of all ages, but does so on a more ongoing basis. This position includes more health promotion and check ups than acute treatment.
The paths to becoming either type of AGNP are quite similar, but certainly require a degree of dedication and academic prowess in addition to a strong desire to help patients live the healthiest lives possible.
In order to become an AGNP, nurses must first become Registered Nurses (RNs). This involves completing an undergraduate degree in nursing and applying for licensure from a state board of nursing. Although nursing licenses are regulated at a state level, in every state nurses should expect to take the NCLEX exam in order to obtain an RN license. Prospective RNs will also be subjected to fingerprinting and a criminal background check before they can begin to practice.
In addition to being an RN in good standing, AGNPs must have a board certified credential from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) in either adult-gerontology acute care or adult-gerontology primary care. This credential allows nurses to earn their nurse practitioner license from the state where they intend to practice. Nurses in states where NPs are allowed prescribing privileges will also need to apply for a DEA number if they plan to prescribe controlled substances.
Not every nurse will follow the same steps to becoming an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, but this is the outline for the career path for many nurses in this specialty, allowing for a large degree of flexibility in order to accommodate different lifestyles.