Best Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Acute Care Programs

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With the advanced skills to fill a variety of healthcare positions, acute care nurse practitioners (ACNPs) provide care to patients by assessing and treating illnesses. ACNPs work alongside other healthcare professionals to determine the best treatment for patients with chronic or acute conditions. Acute care nurses can work in a wide array of healthcare settings, including doctor’s offices, emergency rooms, operating rooms, and walk-in clinics.

According to PayScale, ACNPs make a lucrative average salary of $104,000 per year. The country’s healthcare needs continue to grow, leading to an increased demand for nursing professionals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs for nurse practitioners (NPs) will grow by 45% between 2019 and 2029, much higher than the national average.

Online acute care nurse practitioner programs provide necessary nursing skills, including clinical judgement, proper pharmaceutical prescription, and human physiology expertise. It takes an average of 1-3 years to complete an acute care NP program online to earn an MSN.

Rank School Location
1 Seton Hall University South Orange, NJ
2 Grand Canyon University Phoenix, AZ
3 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
4 Texas Tech University Lubbock, TX
Advertisement is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Featured Online Programs

Best Online MSN in Acute Care Programs

  1. Seton Hall University

    South Orange, NJ

    A Catholic college in South Orange, New Jersey, Seton Hall offers a master of science in nursing in adult-gerontology primary/acute care nurse practitioner. Employing a values-oriented curriculum that emphasizes both practical skills and principles of servant leadership, the program trains students to formulate advanced clinical judgments and offer diagnoses and treatment plans to patients. Along with specialized courses such as acute care theory and health concepts of aging, all candidates complete an extensive, 675-hour practicum.

    Graduates of the MSN acute care nurse practitioner online program are prepared to sit for a variety of professional certification exams from organizations including the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board. Most students complete the program in four years of part-time study.

  2. Grand Canyon University

    Phoenix, AZ

    Emphasizing a Christian approach to professional education, GCU operates a sizable campus in Phoenix, Arizona, along with one of the largest online education programs in the world, serving over 90,000 students. The school hosts a master of science in nursing (acute care nurse practitioner) with an emphasis in adult-gerontology, a primarily online degree that combines skills in clinical diagnosis, health assessment, and care management.

    This MSN acute care nurse practitioner online program emphasizes both the physiological and psychological impact of acute care on patients. The degree requires a minimum of 53 credits, with courses offered in eight-week blocks. While most courses occur entirely online, GCU requires candidates attend two short campus experiences that build hands-on experience and provide training for certification exams.

  3. Drexel University

    Philadelphia, PA

    A private college based in Philadelphia, Drexel hosts a comprehensive online master of science in nursing with a concentration in acute care nurse practitioner that builds the skills and knowledge to provide healthcare services to adult and geriatric patients with acute medical issues. This 57-credit online program includes three major components: core courses, support courses, and clinical courses, which form that majority of the curriculum.

    Degree candidates also complete 800 hours of clinical practice, which run concurrently with synchronous weekly lectures online. Most students complete eight-hour clinical sessions twice a week in a healthcare setting in their own communities. New York residents should note that licensing regulations prevent clinical rotation hours from being performed in the state. While most courses occur online, students must visit campus for occasional clinical practicum sessions in Drexel’s patient simulation lab, along with extensive technical skills training.

  4. Texas Tech University

    Lubbock, TX

    Based in Lubbock, TTU ranks among the largest colleges in Texas, with a sizable online program that includes one of the top acute care MSN online programs in the state. The master of science in nursing with a track in adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner degree trains nurses to offer care to adults suffering from both episodic and chronic health problems. Candidates gain the skills to promote, maintain, and restore the health of patients with acute health problems, providing comprehensive and culturally sensitive healthcare.

    TTU’s program requires a minimum of 48 credits and consists of three major components: the nursing core, prerequisite nursing courses, and population-focused courses. Core courses cover topics such as population health essentials and leadership for healthcare, while prerequisite courses explore advanced topics such as critical care pharmacology and diagnostic methods. The popular focus section consists of four courses in acute care, three of which include skill lab sections that require occasional campus visits.

Applying to an Online MSN in Acute Care Program

Pursuing an MSN in acute care is a key step in becoming an acute care NP. Though requirements vary, online ACNP programs typically require applicants to hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) with a minimum 3.0 grade point average (GPA) and a registered nurse license.

Applicants should confirm that their selected programs accept their state registered nurse license. Some programs feature accelerated programs that allow applicants with an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated discipline to obtain both their BSN and MSN.

MSN programs typically require applicants to confirm a certain amount of relevant clinical hours, varying between 500-1,000 hours. Programs may also ask for other materials, such as a resume, letters of recommendation, minimum scores on tests like the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), or a personal goals statement.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the ACNPC-Adult Gerontology (AG) exam?

    Administered by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, the ACNPC-AG assesses an applicant’s abilities to fulfill the duties of an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. The exam includes 175 multiple choice questions that gauge the applicant’s knowledge in the standard practices of acute care nurse practitioners.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    Accreditation establishes that an educational institution passes the standard review processes, ensuring the quality of their educational offerings. Students should select an accredited program, as employers and certification standards often require degrees from accredited institutions.

  • How long does it take to become an acute care nurse practitioner?

    Becoming an acute care nurse practitioner takes around 2-3 years. Each program sets their own requirements, but to receive an acute care nurse practitioner certificate online, students typically need approximately 35-50 credits that focus on clinical requirements, nursing core courses, and advanced nurse practices.

  • What is the difference between an ACNP and a family nurse NP?

    Family nurse practitioners typically provide primary care in doctor’s offices, clinics, and other settings, often attending to a patient’s health across their lifespan. An ACNP maintains the health of patients who require more immediate care or are in life-threatening conditions. ACNPs often occupy urgent settings, including emergency rooms and intensive care units.

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