Q&A with the Director of the AG-ACNP/CNS Program

Director of the AG-ACNP/CNS Program Karen KestenThe Adult Gerontology-Acute Care Nurse Practitioner/Clinical Nurse Specialist program is designed to prepare current registered nurses with acute and/or critical-care experience to provide direct patient management in acute and complex care settings. We’re pleased to share with you some reflections on the current state of this important role from the director of the AG-ACNP/CNS program, Karen Kesten, DNP, APRN, CCRN, PCCN, CNE, CCNS.

This degree is sometimes misinterpreted as a track for people who want to work with only the senior population. In reality, what population do you serve?

We serve adult patients from age 17 until end of life who are acutely and/or chronically ill. As the population ages all over the nation, advanced practice nurses caring for adults will need knowledge of how to care for all adults in this wide range age span, to include the elderly.

What are the benefits of preparing for the ACNP and CNS role in one program?

The adult gerontology ACNP and CNS care for the same population of patients. Therefore, the clinical knowledge they require is the same. However, their roles in practice are different. The benefit of preparing for both roles is that you will gain the skill set that employers are seeking: a master’s prepared nurse who can manage the care of acutely ill adult patients. You can complete histories, perform physical examinations, interpret diagnostic studies and prescribe care, as well as improve patient outcomes by teaching the staff, lead clinical inquiry projects, seek and find the best evidence, translate research findings into clinical practice, and measure patient outcomes. The preparation in both roles allows you great flexibility in finding jobs in clinical practice and academic teaching, no matter where you live and work.

In what settings does this program prepare students to work?

Students in the AG-ACNP/CNS program are prepared to work with acutely ill adult patients whereever they are found: in specialty practices, cardiology practices, internal medicine practices, emergency rooms, intensive care units, step down units, intermediate care units, and medical surgical in-patient settings. AG-ACNP/CNSs care for adult patients who are acutely or chronically ill, no matter where they reside.

What qualities constitute an effective ACNP? A clinical nurse specialist?

A Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is a master’s prepared advance practice registered nurse whose function is to improve outcomes in patient care. The CNS is an expert in clinical practice, patient educator, researcher, and consultant, influencing the three spheres of practice: patient care, nursing, and systems. The CNS needs to be able to listen, be diplomatic, patient, persistent, and an advocate for patients and their families, as well as the nursing staff.

What makes the Nursing@Georgetown AG-ACNP/CNS program special?

The signature of the program at Georgetown is the close relationship between faculty and students. Students are mentored shoulder-to-shoulder in the classroom and in clinical practice as they develop collegial relationships with faculty. The transition to the professional role of the advanced practice nurse is a transformative experience. The on-campus intensive experiences provide students with an opportunity to acquire an advanced set of skills and to practice those high-acuity, low frequency events that can occur in practice. The opportunity to debrief and reflect on the learning experience with faculty as the “guide at the side” is extraordinary.

Are we seeing an increase in demand for nurses with this type of training?

The number of advanced practice nurses (APN) is expanding nationwide to fulfill the need to provide acute care to adult patients, as the need is ever increasing. As you know, the population as a whole is aging as the baby boomers approach retirement age and require greater health care resources. Health care colleagues are becoming better acquainted with APNs and desire their services to enhance their practice. Acute care settings are in great need for APNs to optimize patient outcomes and deliver cost-effective care. As an AG-ACNP/CNS, you will be prepared to meet this need now and in the future.

How does the clinical experience in this program prepare students for an advance practice role?

Clinical experiences in the program provide students with a strong foundation of practice as a clinical expert in delivering care to adults with complex illnesses. The first clinical rotation provides the student with an opportunity to practice history taking and comprehensive physical examination skills. Subsequent rotations provide higher acuity experiences in managing the care of acutely ill adult patients as part of the interdisciplinary health care team. Clinical rotations focus on consultation and providing education for the health care team on evidenced-based practice topics. Developing skills in communication and collaboration with the health care team to optimize patient outcomes is a focus of all clinical rotations. Opportunities to pursue specialty interest areas may be provided, if available, during the later rotations.

We often hear the CNS role described as a “champion for change.” What does that mean, and why is it important?

The clinical nurse specialist will conduct a unit culture assessment in a system and determine the need for system change. The change project may be in the form of an evidence-based practice change or it may be in working with the interdisciplinary health care team to develop a policy or a procedure to meet patient needs. The CNS is a “champion for change” by interpreting the signposts of change and translating what is coming down the pike for the health care team.

We invite you to learn more about the Nursing@Georgetown program, or call our admissions team at 1-877-910-HOYA (4692).