Baby boomers are projected to use more health care resources in the upcoming years than every other previous generation. This population is living longer and requiring management of more complex chronic conditions, placing a strain on hospital systems already lacking adequate staffing of healthcare providers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for nurse practitioners (NPs) is expected to grow exponentially from 2020-2030. Less than 10% of NPs specialize in adult-gerontology care. As the life expectancy in the United States continues to increase, adult-gerontology NPs (also known as AGNPs) will be in high demand. Are you up for the challenge of becoming an AGNP?
What Is an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner?
Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners specialize in caring for adolescents and adults through advanced age, and the geriatric population. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, AGNPs help screen and diagnose chronic conditions and treat age-related health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic respiratory issues, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cancer.
There Are Two Different Types of AGNPs: Primary & Acute Care
Adult-Gerontology Acute Nurse Practitioners (AG-ACNP)
AG-ACNPs care for acutely ill patients, usually in hospitals, and predominantly in emergency departments, intensive care units, or other acute inpatient settings. They treat patients experiencing episodic illnesses, exacerbation of chronic illness, or terminal illness. AG-ACNPs collaborate with other members of the healthcare team to diagnose and treat critically ill patients.
Adult-Gerontology Primary Nurse Practitioners (AG-PCNP)
AG-PCNPs focus on primary health management of patients from adolescence through old age. They typically practice in outpatient settings such as internal medicine, private practice and clinics, or inpatient long-term care facilities. AG-PCNPs manage chronic illnesses, and provide education to patients on achieving healthy lifestyles and disease prevention.
What Is the Role of an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner?
AGNPs assess patients, diagnose medical issues, order diagnostic tests, interpret results, prescribe medications, and develop treatment plans in adolescent, adult, and elderly patients.
AGNP Scope of Practice
An AGNP’s scope of practice differs depending on the needs of the patient they are caring for and varies by state law. Typical scope of practice for AGNPs include:
- Evaluating patients’ health histories, test results, and symptoms in order to formulate a comprehensive treatment plan.
- Ordering diagnostic tools such as bloodwork, X-rays, ECGs, etc. and then interpreting results.
- Prescribing medication, and educating patients on the route, dosage, and frequency, as well as any risks or side effects.
- Diagnosing common health issues such as illnesses and infections.
- Evaluating the effectiveness of treatment plans and adjusting medications as needed.
- Educating patients and their caregivers about ongoing management of chronic conditions and encouraging compliance.
- Advocating for patients and their families.
In addition to nurse practitioner duties, AGNPs must possess several skills in order to provide compassionate patient care, especially when treating the advanced age population.
Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Helpful Skills Include:
- Patience – Many older patients struggle with hearing and memory issues. An NP may have to repeat themselves several times to ensure the patient hears or understands them, which requires a great deal of patience.
- Knowledge of geriatric health issues – The advanced age population may experience different health issues, especially compared to younger patients, which often require more individualized care. AGNPs must stay abreast of current research in the geriatric field of medicine.
- Strong communication – AGNPs must be able to communicate effectively with patients and their caretakers. The older population may have difficulty understanding or remembering how to care for their condition or what medications to take. Being able to communicate adequately is imperative for positive patient outcomes
- Safety – Maintaining patient safety standards is an AGNP’s top priority. Elderly patients are especially at risk for falls or medication overdoses. AGNPs must advocate for the safety of all of their patients.
- Compassion – The geriatric population may experience sensitive issues such as requiring end-of-life care. AGNPs must be able to provide competent palliative care and education for patients and their caretakers while doing so in a compassionate and comforting manner.
The Future of Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners
Both primary and acute care AGNPs are equally valuable and needed to care for patients across most of their lifespan. With the anticipated rapid growth in NP positions and the increased longevity of the aging population, AGNPs will be in high demand.
Thinking of obtaining a role as an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner? Consider utilizing a healthcare staffing service such as Litton Resource Group to assist in your search for a new position. Access the site and fill out an application to help match you with a medical institution that meets your career goals. Becoming an AGNP will provide you with a rewarding career and allow you to make a difference in the advanced age population.
Lauren Rivera BSN, RNC-NIC is a certified neonatal intensive care nurse. She serves as a nurse expert for a mother/baby telehealth company, and develops content for various nursing