Though hospitals are increasingly hiring nurse practitioners to work in acute care specialty areas, more post-graduate residency programs are needed to provide the training to better prepare new acute care NPs and keep them competitive with physicians assistants, argues a recent article in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners titled, Bridging the Gap Between Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Education and Practice. The article is by Catherine Harris, CRNP, PhD, MBA, an assistant professor of graduate programs and director of the ACNP program at Thomas Jefferson University and a neurocritical care nurse practitioner at Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience in Philadelphia. She notes that the demand for acute care nurse practitioners has risen dramatically in the past 10 years, as hospitals look to supplement in-house staff reduced in part because of laws limiting work hours for medical residents.
The increased use of well-trained NPs has resulted in improved outcomes and good patient satisfaction scores, and nurse practitioners are in a position to step into the acute care setting and make a difference in patient outcomes, she writes. However, the change of (nurse practitioner) program curricula to reflect care across the life span instead of a focus on a specialty has created a gap, which needs to be addressed through education.
A number of hospital systems have designed postgraduate residency programs for acute care nurse practitioners in specialties including trauma, critical care, and cardiology, Harris said, but the trend is relatively new. She counts 25 official post-graduate nurse practitioner residencies in the United States, and those generally offer one or two spots per year.
In contrast, the American Academy of Physician Assistants has its own postgraduate programs and actively encourages new PA graduates to seek out advanced training. Even though nurse practitioners might have specialty hospital experience as RNs, a yearlong post graduate residency will give them added expertise as providers of patient care, Harris said.
The completion of a postgraduate residency program could provide not only a more comprehensive and extended orientation process and structured learning experience but also give (acute care nurse practitioners) an additional competitive edge in the workplace.