Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

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What is an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)?

An Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner is an advanced practiced nurse who concentrates in treating patients from adolescence through geriatrics.  The AGNP has an advanced degree and cares for a broad patient population.  AGNPs work in clinics, hospitals, and urgent cares.  An AGNP has more independence than a Registered Nurse (RN) and can order medications, diagnostic tests, and treatment plans for their patients. 

The Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP) is a licensed, Board-Certified Advanced Practice Registered Nurse who has graduated from an accredited educational program with a graduate degree (Master of Science in Nursing) or higher (Doctorate of Nursing Practice or Doctor of Philosophy).  Recently, more Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are obtaining a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) to enter practice as a Nurse Practitioner.  However, a terminal degree is not yet required.

There are two paths to becoming an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner:

  1. Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP-BC):

    The AGACNP-BC works with adult patients who have an acute or critical illness.  They may specialize in areas like critical care, trauma care, oncology, or surgery.  AGACNPs are integral members of the health care team that can care for all adult populations.  They work in emergency departments, ICUs, acute inpatient hospitals, or outpatient settings.  Becoming an AGNP allows APRNs to work in a fast-paced environment while making critical clinical decisions.

    The AGACNP-BC has replaced the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Board-Certified (ACNP-BC).

  2. Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (A-GNP):

    The A-GNP concentrate on the primary care of adolescents, adults, and seniors.  They educate patients on health promotion, how to maintain well being, prevent diseases, and manage chronic disease.  They can work in a variety of community-based healthcare settings, including hospitals and ambulatory care, particularly outpatient and clinic settings. 

The Path to AGNP

To become an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, you must complete a Bachelor of Science degree, pass the NCLEX-RN exam, complete an AGNP program in either primary or acute care, and pass the certification exam.  Finally, each state licenses the APRN.

Job descriptions for an AGNP vary related to job type, but you must meet the academic and certification requirements to become an AGNP.  Most AGNP jobs and programs prefer prior professional experience as a nurse.  AGNPs must possess computer skills, interpersonal and communication skills, and working well with patients and caregivers.  

Why do we need Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioners?

AGNPs treat a broad patient population and provide care that focuses on keeping patients healthy.  As physicians retire, there is a significant shortage of healthcare providers nationwide that is expected to increase over time.  With the aging population, there are more geriatric patients with complicated conditions that would benefit from the care of an AGNP.  These factors combine to produce a need for more Nurse Practitioners.  

AGNPs focus on chronic disease, educating patients and families about managing the disorder, and on ways to prevent a further decline in health.  They fill a deficiency in our health network and provide a unique emphasis on health maintenance.

What does an Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner do? 

An AGNP focuses on preventative care and health promotion on patients from adolescence to the older adult population. Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioners perform patient assessments and physical exams, diagnose medical conditions, create treatment plans, order laboratory, and radiologic tests, provide specialist referrals, and order prescription medications. AGNPs also provide essential feedback to patients by evaluating their treatment plan and presenting the results of their diagnostic tests.  The AGNP focuses on educating patients and their families about their illness and the management of the disease.

Where does an Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner work?

There are many career opportunities for the AGNP.  Where an Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner practices may vary depending on whether you choose to pursue acute or primary care.  AGNPs can work in private, community, or hospital practice.

A-GNPs practices in areas like:

  • Hospitals
  • Urgent care facilities
  • Home Health
  • Long-term Care Facilities
  • Freestanding emergency departments
  • Trauma Centers
  • Ambulances

A-GNPs work in settings like:

  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient facilities
  • Clinics
  • Ambulatory care
  • Internal medicine clinics
  • Community health centers
  • Schools and campuses

Job Description

Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioners are licensed, independent practitioners.  They treat patients from adolescence to adults to geriatric patients. AGNPs thrive while providing patient-centered interventions like encouraging lifestyle changes, giving age and developmentally appropriate care, and advocating for patients.

Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioners are culturally competent providers who work in collaboration with health care providers and stakeholders. AGNPs work in an extensive range of settings from acute to primary care like skilled long-term care facilities, outpatient clinics, community-based centers, and hospitals. 

Scope of Practice

AGNPs provide care to ambulatory, urgent, and emergency medicine patients across the lifespan.  These advanced practice nurses assess, diagnose, and manage illness, injury, and exacerbation of chronic disease.  AGNPs are skilled at triage, critical medical decision-making, and transferring care based on patient status.

Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioners are clinical experts who evaluate patients, diagnose chronic and acute disease, and order necessary medical tests like blood work and ultrasounds.  NPs focus on patient and family education that provides both patient satisfaction and understanding.

The state regulations define the scope of the Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, and their levels of autonomy vary among APRNs based on where they practice. There is legislation pending in many states for APRNs to practice independently.  Efficient utilization of AGNPs involves an interprofessional relationship with physicians and other providers for best patient outcomes.

How much does an Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner make?

Becoming an NP is a fast-paced and inspiring career.  Since Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioners have advanced qualifications, expert knowledge, and an increased risk of liability, their pay matches their level of proficiency and responsibility. 

The Bureau of Labor (2017) foresees a positive outlook for all Nurse Practitioner specialties and subspecialties.  The NP job market will increase by 36%, which is faster than the average rate of growth for most jobs in the United States. The national need for Nurse Practitioners multiplies due to the healthcare worker shortage and the population’s increased demand for medical care.  Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioners have a rewarding career with an appealing salary.  

Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioners have an average salary of $95,466. Pay is dependent on geographical location, certifications, skills, and the number of years of experience. (Source)

According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), there are a total of 11,058 Board-Certified Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners (A-GNP) in the United States. (Source

Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Certification

Only a licensed Registered Nurse with a BSN from an accredited institution can become an Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner. Most Nurse Practitioner programs prefer that AGNP program applicants have experience as an RN. 

On completion of the AGNP program and receiving a degree (MSN or DNP), you will qualify to sit for the AGNP-BC certification exam.  This examination is challenging, but national certification ensures that all board-certified Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioners meet specific standards of the profession.  

The National Certification Exam

Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioners pass a national exam from a certifying body to achieve certification.  The Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner-Board-Certified (AGACNP-BC) obtains accreditation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The ANCC receives accreditation from the NCCA and the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNG).  

The Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner  (A-GNP) takes the certification exam by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB). The ABSNC and the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accredit the A-GNP certification programs.  AGNPs must possess the skill and knowledge outlined by the accrediting body. To take the exam, you apply to schedule your exam. 

The AGACNP-BC exam has 175 scored questions and 25 pretest questions to complete in a four-hour window. Pass Rates in 2016 were 88.3%. The Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner-Board-Certified (AGACNP-BC) replaces the ACNP-BC exam to align with the APRN consensus model.   

There are135 scored questions and 15 pretest questions in the A-GNP exam. This test focuses on two different domains classified by patient age and the advanced nursing process.  The first domain includes assessment, diagnosis, planning, and evaluation, while the second includes patient populations like adolescents, adults, geriatric, and the frail elderly.

Pretest questions do not affect your exam score.  These are used to obtain statistics regarding quality for future standardized exams. These questions are identical to all other test questions.

If you fail the exam, you can retest after 60 days.  You are limited to testing three times in twelve months.  If you passed the exam, you are now an AGNP. Apply to the board in the state that you would like to be a licensed provider.