Acute care nurse practitioners can work in a variety of inpatient settings. They can choose to work in ICU, ERs, Trauma, and can specialize in hospitalist or intensivist acute care. The question of whether ICU experience is necessary has variable answers.

In short, the answer is that it depends. Specifically, it depends on the school, NP program, and desired end goal for the NP student. Some schools require 1-3 years "acute care experience." This pretty much means any area of acute care - med/surg, telemetry, orthopedic, peri-operative care, etc. ICU means critical care as well as acute care. Depending on the desired specialty, NPs must be able to care for patients in any acute care setting- whether it's med/surg or ICU (for example, if working as a hospitalist).

Many schools allow students to gain concurrent experience in critical care while enrolled in the NP program. Prospective students may also find that schools prefer ICU or other critical care experience, although it may not necessarily be required.

Nurses who know they want to advance their career and become acute care NPs are advised to find positions in critical care settings to get a jump on NP program admissions. As well as gain essential skills in both critical and acute care. However, prospective NP students should research schools to determine the specific admission requirements.

Amanda Bucceri Androus, RN, BSN
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