An ambulatory care nurse is a nurse who works with patients in settings such as urgent care centers, specialty clinics, family practice clinics, community health clinics and much more. Ambulatory care focuses mainly on pain management, educating patients with chronic illnesses, health screenings, case management and triage. Basically, ambulatory care is an encompassing term that includes all duties of nursing, but in an outpatient and usually non acute setting. Earning your Master’s degree in Nursing as preparation to work as an Advanced Practice Nurse in Ambulatory care is a great way to improve both your career and the health of those in your community. You can find a variety of programs to choose from and we encourage you to contact nursing schools with the programs you are interested in.
An ambulatory care nurse will need to possess qualities of critical thinking, especially under pressure and the ability to work efficiently in a wide variety of situations. In this position, you will work directly with patients and educate them on their illness or injury and how to treat their symptoms on both a short and long term basis. You will need to possess excellent communication skills due to the fact you will be communicating with patients, families and other treatment team members, both with written and verbal communication.
Nurses specializing in ambulatory care are an integral part of the treatment team, as they will have the most interaction with patients, will often diagnose and treat illnesses and/or injuries and prescribe medications for treatment. These duties are completed under the supervision of a physician, but similar to Nurse Practitioners, many of your duties will parallel with physician’s duties and supervision is not direct every day.
Ambulatory care nurses practice some case management skills to coordinate care within the treatment team and linking patients to new treatments or personalizing the treatment plan to each patient. You will also need to be compassionate and enjoy working with people, as you will be working with patients who are seeking care and advice for their illness or injury. Ambulatory care nurses will also need to be very organized, as you will need to maintain records and care for numerous patients and the data will need to be recorded accurately. As with every nursing position, you will also need to operate within the code of ethics for nurses and maintain a professional role at all times.
As with most positions in nursing, you can specialize in ambulatory care while obtaining your Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. When you begin your Master’s program, you will be able to choose a path within the nursing field in which you will specialize. One of those paths is ambulatory care which educates you in advanced clinical and leadership skills in the out-patient care setting.
You will learn how to coordinate care for your patients within the healthcare system, as well as evaluate patient progress, risk and knowledge. A huge difference in nursing responsibilities presents itself after obtaining your Master’s degree, as you will have many of the same job duties you did as a Registered Nurse, along with more responsibility, independence and decision-making opportunities.
And, as a specialized nurse with a Master’s degree, you will be qualified for leadership roles and often find yourself in situations where you will be making decisions regarding patient treatment and care. Depending on your state’s Nurse Practice Act, you may function with little to no direct supervision from a physician or charge nurse, or you may find you are the primary healthcare provider.
Obtaining your graduate degree in nursing may help you get a leadership role in your specialized field and will help prepare you to dominate in your field. Options for Ambulatory Care Master’s degrees often include Nursing Leadership, Nurse Practitioner Programs and Community Health Nursing. Some classes you may take when specializing in ambulatory care include ethics, hands on clinicals in non-hospital settings, chronic disease management, advanced pharmacology, nursing leadership and much more.
After you graduate with your Master’s degree, you are ready to start applying for jobs, but there is one more step you can take to make yourself more marketable, and which may increase your job outlook and wage potential. You can obtain your Ambulatory Care certification and with your certification, you can show potential employers your credibility and knowledge in the career field in which you are seeking employment.
You can take the exam to become certified year round and as with many other certification exams in the nursing field, you can receive a discount exam fee by being a member of the American Nurses Association. After becoming certified, your certification will last three years and within that time, you will need to have completed 1,000 hours as an Ambulatory Care Nurse, as well as completed 75 hours of continuing education to qualify to renew your certification. As long as you have met the renewal requirements, you will just need to pay a fee to keep the certification.
You can also seek your ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center) Ambulatory Care Nursing board certification through ANCC. This exam will also allow you to exhibit your knowledge and ability to employers, but is obtained from a different credentialing agency. After you obtain your ANCC Ambulatory Care Nursing board certification, you will stay certified for 5 years, after which you will need to meet similar renewal criteria as the previously mentioned certification, or apply to retake the exam. All initial and renewal criteria are subject to change and this information can be found through ANCC.
After you become an Ambulatory Care nurse, you will have some resources available to you for access to continuing education credits in your area, newsletters with the latest nursing and medical news in ambulatory care, access to networking through discussion forums and special interest groups, access to help with the certification exam, employment opportunities across the nation and opportunities to attend annual conferences by becoming a member of the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN).
Job outlook for Ambulatory Care Nurses is good overall, which means nurses graduating in this specialty field can expect to look forward to job openings when they finish their program, with the probability of high job security. Since Ambulatory Care is a term that encompasses many different possible job titles within the nursing field, it is hard to pinpoint a job outlook or benefits for the general term.
Job titles can vary by the different setting in which you work. However, once you obtain your Master’s degree in Ambulatory care, your benefits and responsibilities will be very similar to a Nurse Practitioner or a nurse manager. Nurse practitioners in 2012 made, on average, $92,000 per year or $44.55 per hour, and your wage in ambulatory care will likely be comparable, especially if you do decide to go the NP route.
Nurse managers, meanwhile, made an average of $90,940 per year or $43.72 per hour. Also, as with most nursing positions, your hours and compensation will vary depending on your employment setting, as well. For example, if you work in a 9:00 am to 5:00 pm walk-in clinic, you may not be required to work weekends, over nights and probably not holidays. But, if you work in an urgent care clinic or an outpatient emergency setting, you may work some weekends, holidays, overnights and/or overtime, which all may result in higher wage compensation depending on your employer. These dependent variables may actually be a job perk to obtaining your Master’s Nursing in Ambulatory Care by giving you the ability to direct your specialty to a setting in which your preferred work hours exist.
To learn more about the degree options available to you, contact the schools on our site and request program materials. The more information you have, the better prepared you will be to select the Master’s in Nursing route that is best for you.