The Best Online Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

January 31, 2022 , Updated on May 9, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Interested in earning an MSN in acute care? These programs prepare you for a vital role as a nurse practitioner in an emergency room or intensive care unit.

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The Best Online Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

An acute care nurse practitioner (ACNP) is a registered nurse (RN) who holds a master's degree or higher from an accredited institution. ACNPs provide care for patients with critical illness or acute conditions.

The online ACNP track offers affordability, scheduling flexibility, and the opportunity to remain employed while attending classes virtually. Additionally, the ease of accessibility to instructors can facilitate stronger relationships and interactions.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best online acute care nurse practitioner programs, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

Keep reading to learn more about online acute care NP programs, or go straight to our list of the best online acute care NP programs.

Featured Online MSN Programs

What Can You Do as an Acute Care NP?

ACNPs collaborate with physicians and other members of the healthcare team to treat acutely ill and critically injured patients. Duties can range from prescribing medication to performing intubation. An ACNP can work in various settings with a patient population that includes infants, adults, and the elderly.

Specialized areas for ACNPs include the following:

Adult-Gerontology ACNP (AGACNP)

Certified AGACNPs specialize in treating adult and elderly patients with critical illnesses or conditions. They work in intensive care units, trauma centers, emergency rooms, and urgent care centers. They can also find work in outpatient facilities, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and hospice settings.


Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care (PNP-AC)

Certified PNP-ACs work with infants, children, and adolescents with acute or life-threatening illness or injuries. They function in pediatric critical care units, emergency rooms, outpatient pediatric facilities, rehabilitation centers, and hospice care.


What to Look for in an Online Acute Care NP Program

Before enrolling in an ACNP program, prospective students should research schools to identify programs that align with their goals.

Pay attention to the following key metrics.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements ensure you meet applicant criteria. While qualifications vary by school, you will need official transcripts, a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or an associate nursing degree from an accredited institution, and acute care clinical nursing experience with an unencumbered RN license.

A professional resume and references, an admissions essay, GRE/GMAT test scores, and a minimum GPA of 3.0 are also typically required.

Program Curriculum

The core curriculum helps students choose a school based on course offerings. The curriculum establishes the standards, objectives, and outcomes for nursing students.

Quality programs prepare enrollees for future success in their career. Course tracks focus on gaining knowledge of the pathophysiology of complex acute conditions and how to diagnose and manage such illnesses.

Clinical Experience

ACNP programs incorporate supervised, customized clinical experience. The hours, location, and format vary by school. Some online dual programs encourage students to choose their clinical site and help with placement, as needed.

Accreditation

Nursing program accreditation is a crucial factor when searching for online ACNP programs. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education are accrediting agencies that ensure nursing programs offer academic quality and comply with state and national standards.

Program Length

An ACNP online program typically takes two years to complete with full-time enrollment. This can vary by school.

School NCLEX Pass Rate

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rate can indicate a school's success in preparing students for the advanced nursing field too. A first-time NCLEX pass rate of 90% or higher demonstrates a highly valued program. As of the third quarter 2021, the national year-to-date NCLEX pass rate for first-time test-takers is close to 84%.

School Graduation Rate

This metric enables you to assess the quality of the school and its program compared to other institutions. It reveals the percentage of students who graduate in an acceptable time frame.

Online Learning Format and Requirements

Online ACNP formats offer a diverse range of courses and the opportunity for you to choose one that aligns with your goals and career path. Life is busier than ever, and online classwork provides the opportunity for you to continue to work while attending virtually.

Applying to an Online Acute Care NP Program

With an online ACNP program, you can advance your education with a master's degree (or higher) and increased knowledge in a virtual learning environment. Although application processes vary, there are some general steps to apply to this program.

Specific prerequisites for the leading online ACNP programs include:

Admission Materials

  • Online application
  • Official transcripts
  • Statement of purpose
  • Professional resume and references
  • BSN or associate nursing degree from an ACEN-accredited program
  • An unencumbered state RN license or enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact
  • NCLEX-RN pass rate of 98-100%
  • Specific number of non-nursing credits and nursing prerequisite courses

GPA Requirement

Minimum overall GPA ranging from 2.5-3.0

Other Requirements

  • Background check
  • Fingerprinting
  • Drug screening
  • Immunization verification
  • Proof of health insurance

Why Is Online Acute Care NP Program Accreditation Important?

Choosing an accredited online ACNP curriculum is beneficial for many reasons.

  • Accreditation ensures that programs adhere to a common quality standard.
  • Attending an unaccredited institution can disqualify you from receiving federal financial aid.
  • Unaccredited undergraduate degrees may not be valid to graduate programs.
  • A degree from an accredited school can lead to better job prospects.
  • Some state boards of nursing only grant licensure to graduates from accredited institutions.
  • Accredited schools likely offer more current nursing theory and practice courses.
  • Employers typically want to confirm the validity of ACNP online programs and prefer nurses from accredited programs.

Paying for Online Acute Care NP Programs

When paying for your education, consider program length, in-state versus out-of-state tuition, and whether you can continue to work while in school.

For online ACNP programs, you can weigh financial assistance options to pay for your nursing degree. This level of education offers financial aid resources for nurses such as:

  • Nursing scholarships and grants
  • Loans from the federal government, private funding, or public sources
  • Federally funded work-study programs that allow you to work part time

Learn More About the Top Online Acute Care NP Programs and Schools

#1

George Washington University

School Information
Location Washington, District of Columbia
Admission Rate 41%
Graduation Rate 82%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

George Washington University offers an acute care nurse practitioner program with accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The program prepares learners to work in emergency settings.

Seven clinical labs and seminars require campus visits. Degree-seekers learn about health assessments, airway management, and central line insertion. Additional topics include adult gerontology, critical thinking in crises, and suturing. Students complete 48 credits and 650 clinical hours.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: District of Columbia
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,395 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN, current RN license, minimum 3.0 GPA, transcripts, two letters of recommendation, resume, statement of purpose, one year of critical care nursing experience
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $101,254 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#2

Maryville University of Saint Louis

School Information
Location Saint Louis, Missouri
Admission Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 71%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 76% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Maryville University delivers a convenient online acute care nurse practitioner program with no campus requirements. Distance learners complete clinical placements locally.

Nursing students choose from five concentrations, including adult gerontological acute care. The concentration focuses on diagnosis and management processes. Students develop a foundation in an evidence-based nursing practice, health promotion, and disease prevention.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: St. Louis, Missouri
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,395 per credit for North Carolina residents, $664 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: BSN from an accredited nursing program, minimum 3.0 GPA, RN license, transcripts, resume, 500-word essay
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $93,724 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#3

Purdue University Global-Indianapolis

School Information
Location West Lafayette, Indiana
Graduation Rate 27%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 99% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Purdue University Global offers an acute care nurse practitioner program that prepares students for advanced nursing roles. Most students complete the MSN program in two years. Learners with transferable credits may graduate more quickly.

Students complete 30 core nursing credits and 51 concentration credits. Purdue Global delivers classes in 10-week terms. The program's six concentration options include adult gerontological acute care. Coursework covers physiology and pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology, and critical care management. Online learners complete clinicals in their specialization area.

The curriculum prepares graduates to earn credentials to become practicing adult gerontological acute care nurse practitioners and acute care nurse practitioners.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: West Lafayette, Indiana
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $420 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN, minimum 2.5 GPA, RN license, one year of critical care nursing experience, criminal background check, official transcripts
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
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#4

Duquesne University

School Information
Location Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 74%
Graduation Rate 81%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 21% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Duquesne University's accredited acute care nurse practitioner program focuses on adult gerontology. The 42-credit program offers three annual start dates. Coursework builds on prior nursing experience and covers advanced topics related to critical illnesses and complex healthcare needs. 

Online learners complete 12 courses and 750 clinical hours. Classes explore evidence-based nursing practice, healthcare ethics in practice and policy, pharmacology, physical assessments, and pathophysiology.

Learners progress through the curriculum in cohorts of 12-15 students. Duquesne provides access to virtual libraries, writing centers, and an online orientation.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,635 per credit 
  • Admission Requirements: BSN from an accredited school, minimum 3.0 GPA, RN license, at least one year of nursing experience, undergraduate statistics course, transcripts, resume, statement of goals, two reference letters
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
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#5

DeSales University

School Information
Location Center Valley, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 69%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

A Christian institution, DeSales University offers an adult gerontology acute care program. Unlike other acute care nurse practitioner programs, the university's offering features 60 hours of advanced pharmacology lessons, which qualify graduates to prescribe medications in Pennsylvania.

Students complete 50 credits in subjects including applied research, healthy policy health informatics, and principles of epidemiology and biostatistics.

The program requires 75 clinical lab hours in the clinical skills suite. The facility features high-fidelity and low-fidelity mannequins, 12 beds, and eight exam rooms. Degree-seekers complete 675 clinical hours in practices throughout the Lehigh Valley.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Center Valley, Pennsylvania
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $910 per credit 
  • Admission Requirements: BSN from an accredited nursing program, minimum 3.0 GPA, RN license, one year of nursing experience
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94.9% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $99,251 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#6

The University of Texas at El Paso

School Information
Location El Paso, Texas
Admission Rate 100%
Graduation Rate 37%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 40% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Texas at El Paso delivers an acute care nurse practitioner program emphasizing adult gerontology. The program's convenient learning format benefits working nurses.

Each course lasts seven weeks. Classes incorporate advanced assessments, pathophysiology, research appraisal, healthcare policy and advocacy, and simulation lab experiences. Nursing students complete 46-49 credits and 675-775 clinical hours.

Graduates can earn credentials from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. UTEP admits new students in the fall and spring terms. 

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: El Paso, Texas
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $552 per credit for Texas residents, $782 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: BSN, minimum 3.0 GPA, RN license, direct patient care experience, 2-3 years of ICU or CCU experience
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.6% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $126,504 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#7

Saint Joseph's College of Maine

School Information
Location Standish, Maine
Admission Rate 87%
Graduation Rate 67%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 40% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Saint Joseph's College of Maine offers an acute care nurse practitioner program. Students can customize the learning format to fit their lifestyle.

The curriculum includes 24 core credits. Topics include nursing informatics, policy and safety, organizational and systems leadership, and research methods. Nursing students complete 24 specialization credits comprising adult gerontology acute care coursework and practicum experiences.

Full-time students can graduate in two years. Part-time students have up to five years to complete the program. SJC does not charge an application fee or require GRE scores.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Standish, Maine
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $683 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN from an accredited school, minimum 3.0 GPA, official transcripts, RN license, undergraduate statistics and health assessment courses, resume, career statement, three references
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.8% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $96,829 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#8

Clarkson College

School Information
Location Omaha, Nebraska
Admission Rate 46%
Graduation Rate 38%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Clarkson College's acute care nurse practitioner program offers an accelerated pathway to a graduate degree for nurses with an associate degree or a nursing diploma.

The RN-to-MSN program requires 130 credits, including undergraduate credits. After completing graduate courses, online learners can take 30 credits in adult-gerontological acute care.

Coursework explores advanced physical assessments, nutrition, psychiatric and mental health, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. Students complete online theory courses and local clinical experiences. Learners graduate in 10-14 semesters.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Omaha, Nebraska
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • Tuition: $683 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: ADN or nursing diploma, minimum 3.0 GPA, RN license
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 98.1% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $112,437 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#9

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

School Information
Location Galveston, Texas
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 25% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The acute care nurse practitioner program from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston trains learners to work with young adults and seniors.

The program features an adult gerontology specialization. Degree-seekers complete 14 courses. Most students take 2-3 courses per semester and graduate in seven semesters. The curriculum covers geriatic syndromes, nurse practitioner diagnostics reasoning, public policy, and informatics and quality improvement. 

Graduates can pursue credentials from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the Association of Critical Care Nurses.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Galveston, Texas
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $552 per credit for Texas residents, $782 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: BSN from an accredited school, minimum 3.0 GPA, RN license, resume, personal statement, three letters of recommendation, one year of nursing experience in acute care
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
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Frequently Asked Questions About Acute Care NP Programs


What is the ACNPC-Adult Gerontology 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 to become board certified. 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 process, 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 FNP?

Differences between family nurse practitioners and ACNPs lie in work setting and type of care. Family nurse practitioners typically provide primary care in doctors' 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 care settings, including emergency rooms and intensive care units.

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