As the average lifespan increases, so does the need for specialized care for gerontology patients. Adults have changing needs as they age, and a holistic, multidisciplinary approach is necessary to improve quality of life. Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners (AG-PCNP) are trained to provide healthcare for patients from adolescence through old age. The need for AG-PCNPs is expanding due to the growth of the aging population.
What Does This Type of Nurse Do?
An AG-PCNP’s role is to assess, diagnose and manage common health problems for patients from adolescence to old age. An AG-PCNP is also responsible for proactive health management, including the education of patients on healthy lifestyles and disease prevention strategies. They help patients and their families manage the physical, psychological and social impact of aging.
Depending on state and facility regulations, the nurse practitioner (NP) has the ability to order and analyze diagnostic tests, perform medical procedures, refer patients to appropriate specialists, and develop and implement treatment plans, including prescribing medicine. Primary care emphasizes the importance of healthy lifestyle choices, screening and preventive care, with attention to cultural diversity and high-risk populations. In addition, AG-PCNPs advocate for the people they serve and often help lead community-based health efforts and contribute to discussions on public policies that impact their patients. Their role in healthcare often has a large community-based focus.
What Type of Patients Do They See?
Because AG-PCNPs work across a broad patient population, they have almost endless job opportunities. Depending on the job position, they may see adults ranging from adolescent (age 13 or over) to geriatric. They may specialize in certain age groups (older adults, 65+) or diseases (diabetes, heart disease, etc.). They may work with a specific service line, such as a women’s maternal health, neurology, endocrinology or oncology. Some practices have an NP-physician co-management team for the same patient. NP’s frequently work with patients through their lifespan or serve a specific patient population to act as the patient’s primary contact for their health concerns.
Where Do They Work?
The scope of practice for NPs is determined by each state. These regulations and setting for an adult-gerontology NP works in determines depends, and their specialty often determine the NP’s role. There is often crossover between job openings for an AG-PCNP or adult gerontologic acute care NP (AG-ACNP). By definition, AG-ACNPs deal with patients experiencing acute serious illnesses and health conditions, whereas AG-PCNPs work with patients requiring preventive health and management of common acute and chronic illnesses.
AG-ACNPs are more likely to work in hospital settings (medical/surgical floor, specialty floor, emergency department or intensive care unit), where they can treat patients with acute illnesses and “round” on patients. Often AG-PCNPs work in settings that emphasize illness prevention and health promotion as well as minor acute and chronic condition management. This includes medical offices, ambulatory care centers, skilled nursing facilities, home care agencies, house calls or concierge medicine.
However, there is significant overlap when looking at degree requirements on job postings. Some employers offer an advanced practice provider clinical fellowship with a hospitalist or other advanced education to provide more intense inpatient training.
The possibilities of where an adult geriatric NP can practice varies. Adult gerontology NPs typically work in acute care, clinical care, or primary care. Employers often accept either an AG-PCNP or AG-ACNP degree along with work experience.
Avenues for Adult Gerontologic NPs
|Acute Care||Clinical care||Primary care|
|With a hospitalist||Community health||Medical office|
|Medical/surgical floor||Prison||Ambulatory care center|
|Specialty floor||Long-term care||Skilled nursing facility|
|Emergency department||Rehabilitation||Home care agency|
|Intensive care unit||College campus or school nurse||House calls|
|Specialty clinic (i.e., oncology, orthopedics)|
|Employee health clinic|
What Is the Role Like?
NPs collaborate closely with other healthcare professionals to provide holistic, compassionate care in a variety of settings. Due to the focus of an AG-PCNP on primary care, the role may focus more on health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling and patient education. However, many AG-PCNPs function as the only provider for patients, offering all of their care, especially among the elderly, socioeconomically disadvantaged and other vulnerable populations. The level of autonomy and specific primary job responsibilities depend on state regulations, the particular job and employer. Many NPs have a leadership role as a clinical resource and interprofessional consultant.
AG-PCNPs must possess a wide range of skills in order to be successful in this role. Clinical skills may vary depending on the position, but overall NPs must have excellent attention to detail, as well as communication and time management skills. Due to the extended duration of care for some patients, AG-PCNPs must also possess good professional boundaries to be able to reduce stress and prevent burnout.
Nurse practitioners are in high demand, and AG-PCNPs are well-suited to fit a wide variety of patient needs.