Career Development

What Does an Acute Care Nurse Do?

Find out what an acute care nurse does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as an acute care nurse.

Acute care nurses work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private practice. They provide direct patient care while also working with other medical professionals to ensure that their patients receive the best possible treatment.

Acute care nurses are often responsible for managing the flow of patients through the hospital or clinic they work for. This means they may be tasked with triaging new patients as they arrive, assigning them to beds, and ensuring that they receive any necessary treatments or procedures as quickly as possible.

Acute Care Nurse Job Duties

Acute care nurses have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Administering medications and treatments according to a healthcare provider’s orders
  • Providing emotional support to patients and families during difficult times
  • Observing patients for signs of physical or emotional distress or changes in physical condition
  • Monitoring patient health by taking vital signs and recording them in an electronic health record (EHR) system or paper chart
  • Preparing patients for procedures such as administering anesthesia or changing bandages
  • Communicating with other healthcare providers regarding patient cases
  • Performing diagnostic tests such as taking blood samples or cultures
  • Coordinating care with physicians and other health professionals such as therapists or social workers
  • Educating patients on how to care for themselves at home after discharge from the hospital

Acute Care Nurse Salary & Outlook

Acute care nurses’ salaries vary depending on their level of education and experience, the type of patients they care for, and the geographic location of their job.

  • Median Annual Salary: $95,000 ($45.67/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $122,000 ($58.65/hour)

The employment of acute care nurses is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

The need for nurses in hospitals is expected to increase as the large baby-boom population ages and people live longer with chronic conditions. Nurses also will be needed to educate patients about new medical technology, such as electronic health records and imaging devices.

Related: Acute Care Nurse Interview Questions and Answers

Acute Care Nurse Job Requirements

There are a number of qualifications required to obtain a position as an acute care nurse. They include:

Education: All states require acute care nurses to have at least an associate’s degree. The most common majors for acute care nurses are nursing, pre-nursing and nursing education.

Many employers prefer to hire acute care nurses who have a bachelor’s degree in nursing. This degree takes four years to complete and includes both classroom and clinical instruction. The classroom portion covers topics such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathophysiology, health assessment, medical-surgical nursing, mental health nursing, community health nursing, leadership, research and ethics. The clinical portion involves supervised practice in a nursing setting.

Training & Experience: Most acute care nurses receive on-the-job training from their new employer. This training may last for a few weeks to a few months, depending on the facility. During this time, the nurse will learn about the facility’s policies and procedures, as well as the equipment and technology they use.

Certifications & Licenses: After completing your education, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to get your license to practice as an acute care nurse. The exam tests nursing concepts and principles that are essential to safe and effective nursing care.

Acute Care Nurse Skills

Acute care nurses need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication: Communication is the act of conveying information to others. As an acute care nurse, you may need to communicate with patients, other medical professionals, family members and other patients. Effective communication can help you to relay information, answer questions and provide support.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings. As an acute care nurse, empathy is an important skill to have when caring for patients. You can use empathy to help your patients feel more comfortable and relaxed during their treatment. For example, if a patient is nervous about a procedure, you can use empathy to help them feel more comfortable and calm.

Time management: Time management is the ability to prioritize tasks and manage deadlines. As an acute care nurse, you may be responsible for the care of multiple patients at once. This means you need to be able to manage your time effectively to ensure you are providing the best care possible to each patient.

Critical thinking: Critical thinking is the ability to make quick decisions based on the information you have. As an acute care nurse, you may need to make quick decisions about a patient’s treatment plan or diagnosis. Having strong critical thinking skills can help you make the best decisions for your patients.

Physical stamina: Physical stamina refers to the ability to perform tasks that require a lot of energy. This can include standing for long periods of time, lifting patients and equipment and performing other physical tasks. Acute care nurses often need to have high levels of physical stamina to be able to complete their duties.

Acute Care Nurse Work Environment

Acute care nurses work in hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities. They work long hours, often on rotating shifts, and may be on call 24 hours a day. Acute care nurses must be able to handle the stress of working in a fast-paced environment and be able to make quick decisions. They must also be able to work well under pressure and be able to handle the emotional stress of dealing with sick and injured patients.

Acute Care Nurse Trends

Here are three trends influencing how acute care nurses work. Acute care nurses will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Growth of Telehealth

The growth of telehealth is a trend that is quickly changing the way that healthcare is delivered. By using technology, patients can now receive care from doctors and nurses who are located miles away.

This trend is having a major impact on the nursing profession, as it is making it easier for patients to access care when and where they need it. Acute care nurses can take advantage of this trend by becoming experts in telehealth services. This will allow them to provide care to patients who are unable to travel to see them in person.

Patient Advocacy Will Become More Important

As patient advocacy becomes more important, acute care nurses will need to develop skills that help them connect with patients.

Patients are increasingly looking for nurses who can understand their needs and provide compassionate care. Acute care nurses can meet this demand by developing strong communication skills and forming relationships with patients and their families. In addition, acute care nurses should be prepared to handle difficult situations and provide support during difficult times.

More Attention to Patient Safety

As hospitals and other health care facilities focus more attention on patient safety, nurses will need to adapt their practices to ensure that patients are safe and well cared for.

Nurses can utilize this trend by becoming familiar with new safety protocols and procedures. They can also work to build relationships with other members of the health care team, so that everyone is working towards the same goal of providing the best possible care for patients.

How to Become an Acute Care Nurse

Acute care nurses have a unique and rewarding career path. They can specialize in different areas of acute care, such as emergency nursing, critical care nursing, or trauma nursing. They can also move into leadership roles, such as nurse manager or nurse administrator.

No matter what stage of your career you’re at, there are always opportunities to learn new skills and expand your knowledge base. You can take online courses, attend workshops and conferences, and read articles and journals. You can also network with other nurses and share best practices.

Advancement Prospects

Acute care nurses can find opportunities to advance their careers by taking on additional responsibilities, such as becoming a charge nurse or a nurse manager. They may also move into specialized areas of nursing, such as critical care, emergency room nursing, or operating room nursing. With further education, acute care nurses can also become nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists.

Acute Care Nurse Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we provide our patients with the highest quality of care possible. We’re looking for a nurse with acute care experience to join our team and help us maintain this standard of excellence. The ideal candidate will have experience caring for patients with a variety of medical conditions, both chronic and acute. They will be skilled in providing both medical and emotional support to patients and their families. They will also be able to work effectively as part of a team, as well as independently when necessary.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Provide direct patient care within the scope of practice, as defined by the Board of Nursing
  • Perform nursing assessments and develop individualized patient care plans
  • Implement nursing interventions and evaluate patients’ responses to treatments
  • Collaborate with other members of the healthcare team to ensure coordinated and comprehensive care
  • Educate patients and families about health conditions, medications, and self-care
  • Serve as a patient advocate, providing emotional support and guidance
  • Promote a healing environment by maintaining a clean and safe patient care area
  • Monitor patients’ vital signs and administer medications as prescribed
  • Document patients’ medical histories and progress notes
  • Keep abreast of new developments in nursing care by attending continuing education courses and reading professional journals
  • Participate in quality improvement initiatives
  • Supervise and mentor less experienced staff

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Registered Nurse (RN) with valid state license
  • Bachelor’s degree in nursing or related field
  • 3+ years of experience in acute care nursing
  • Specialty certification in area of focus, such as critical care, emergency room, etc.
  • Strong clinical skills and knowledge base
  • Excellent communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in nursing or related field
  • 5+ years of experience in acute care nursing
  • Teaching experience
  • Leadership experience


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