What Is Ambulatory Care Nursing?
Not all nursing care needs to take place in a hospital setting. In fact there are frequently times when pain management for patients with chronic injuries or illness, or general health education for patients with chronic injuries or illness needs to occur outside the hospital setting. In these cases ambulatory care nursing becomes necessary. Ambulatory care nurses are nurses that move to where they are needed.
Nature Of The Work/Duties
Generally speaking you will, in ambulatory care nursing, perform many of the same tasks as you would in any other nursing setting. The main differences is that the environment in which you provide care may vary frequently. Usually you will be required to provide healthcare to patients with varying illnesses or injuries, promote healthcare and health maintenance to patients, educate patients on how to manage their injury or illness at home, provide healthcare either face to face with patients or over the phone or internet, and assist patients preventing and managing illnesses. The two main tasks are, then:
- Providing care to the patient regarding their ailment
- Educating the patient in terms of the ailment that they are suffering from and how best to deal with that ailment in a way that promotes speedy recovery
Ambulatory care nursing involves moving from location to location, usually outside of a traditional hospital setting. Consequently you may find that you will be employed in ambulances, day surgery units, ambulatory care surgeries, physicians office, community centers, schools, workplaces, in home care environments, and clinics. In addition to these more ‘traditional’ locations you could also seek employment in a few areas that you may not have thought of before:
- Health Insurance Companies where you will be expected to provide health care advice via telephone or the internet
- The Government where you will be expected to provide health care advice via telephone or the internet
This kind of nursing provides you with vast experience, making it easy to settle down in one particular nursing discipline in the future if you so desire.
Ambulatory Care Nursing Requirements
As with any discipline there are a number of basic requirements that you will need to meet before you will be able to work as an ambulatory care nurse. To begin with you must be a qualified Registered Nurse (RN) and you must have a minimum of two years of experience working as an RN. These are really the only requirements that you will need to meet for the position. There is no additional training to become an ambulatory care nurse, but it is recommended that you pursue certification as many employers prefer, if not require, candidates to hold this certificate. Certification can be gained by documenting 2,000 hours (1 year full-time) experience in Ambulatory Care Nursing within the last three years and by completing 30 hours of Ambulatory Care Nursing Continuing Education within the last three years.
There are a number of personality traits that we expect all nurses to have, including things like natural empathy and an ability to work well in a team and take orders when necessary. There are two main personality traits that are specifically useful for those nurses who would like to specialize in ambulatory care nursing. The first is interpersonal skills. If you have great interpersonal skills you will have every little trouble working with the many different people who you will come into contact with on a daily basis. In addition you will also find that an ability to stay calm and rational under pressure will be very helpful as, in an ambulatory care setting, you may not always have other experts to draw on and may be required to make life or death decisions yourself.
The most basic educational requirement for the post is that you have a high school diploma. During high school it will be helpful if you focus on subjects like math, science, and biology. Once you have completed high school you can go on to earning one of the following:
- A diploma in nursing, OR
- An associate’s degree in nursing, OR
- A bachelor’s degree in nursing
If you are interested in becoming certified you will then need to complete continuing education units in appropriate topics. These will prepare you for a career as an ambulatory care nurse. After working for two years as a Registered Nurse with 2,000 hours of clinical practice in ambulatory care and 30 hours of continued education you can take the certification exam that will allow you to ‘officially’ be an ambulatory care nurse health care specialist through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
To become an ambulatory care nurse you have to hold an RN license. To receive this license you must begin by completing an accredited RN training program at a vocational school, college, or university. Completing the program will allow you to apply for licensure through your state board of nursing. Once you have received confirmation that you are indeed eligible for licensure, you will be able to set a date to write the licensing examination through Pearson VUE, the company which administers these exams. Passing the exam will allow you to become licensed. Your license may need to be renewed periodically depending on what the rules of your particular state’s board of nursing are regarding this matter.
How To Become An Ambulatory Care Nurse
Training, Advancement and Other Qualifications
As a nurse you will frequently have the option of advancing your education and training in the area of ambulatory care through continuing education units. These are often a requirement for re-certification or the renewal of your NR license, so you may as well select units that will be beneficial to you as a nurse. Some of the topics that you may find useful are:
- IV therapy
- Triage and telephone advice
Even if continuing education is not a requirement in your state it is still advised that you pursue continuing education units related to your line of work. This will result in the possibility for further job advancement. In addition it will make you more positive in terms of your jobs and your abilities to do your job well.
Source An Accredited Education Program
It is incredibly important that you complete an RN training program that is accredited with your state board of nursing. If it is not you will be wasting your time and your money on the program. There are three main ways in which you can determine the accreditation status of a school:
- From the school itself: Schools have to publish this information, but it is always better to double check all claims that the schools you are interested in make in this regard.
- From current nurses: RNs who are currently employed as such in the field of ambulatory care will be able to point you in the direction of accredited schools.
- From your State Board of Nursing: Your State Bad of Nursing is the most reliable source of information on accreditation.
Earn Your Associate’s Degree
Earning an associate’s degree in nursing is an excellent place to start if you want to be an ambulatory care nurse. Earning an associate’s degree, which can be done through any university or other educational institute that offers the qualification, will allow you to apply for licensure with your state board of nursing, and can therefore allow you to become licensed. However many employers prefer to hire ambulatory care nurses who have a more advanced qualification. It is easy enough to return to school after working for a while to obtain a more advanced degree, and earning your associate’s degree is still the best starting point as you will still be able to start working fairly soon after you have graduated from the associate’s degree training program through which you choose to study.
Obtain Your Licensure
Apart from the RN license there is no additional licensure that you have to obtain to become and ambulatory care nurse. However you do have the option of becoming certified. Certification will:
- Provide you with more job opportunities
- Allow you to ask for a raise
In some states certification may even be mandatory, and it is important that you are well aware of what the conventions in your state are before making any commitments one way or the other. Certification can be gained by documenting 2,000 hours (1 year full-time) experience in Ambulatory Care Nursing within the last three years. Additionally certified ambulatory care nurses must also have completed 30 hours of Ambulatory Care Nursing Continuing Education within the last three years. As nursing specializations go, this is one of the least intensive to join.
Online/Distance Education Programs
To a certain degree a nursing qualification can be completed online. However it is important to note that nursing is a highly practical line of work, and consequently there is a high concentration of practical learning in your training course in addition to the theory that will be covered in the prescribed textbooks. It is simply not possible to complete your clinical experience online. There are online schools, however, that are either part of a brick and mortar school, or that are affiliated with actual health care facilities and that therefore provide ways in which you can complete your clinical training in a real-life setting, while completing your theory training online. If this is the course you would like to take, make your decision very carefully as it will affect the rest of your career.
Nursing is generally one of those lines of work that is improving at a very fast rate in terms of the number of jobs available. The stats are:
- Nursing in general will increase by 22% over the next few years.
- More technology is being used, meaning that ambulatory nurses with skills in this technology will be in greater demand.
In addition there is a rising elderly population and an increased emphasis on preemptive health care, both factors which will contribute to an increase in the number of jobs available for ambulatory care nurses in the very near future. In addition ambulatory care nurses are also trained in skills that can be transferred to more traditional hospital settings, which means they have the opportunity for employment in those settings in addition to ambulatory care settings.
Ambulatory Care Nursing Earnings
The national average salary of an ambulatory care nurse is $50,000 a year, but this figure may be slightly lower or slightly higher depending on several factors including where the job is located, and how much previous experience a potential candidate may have. In addition you will find that some states simply tend to pay more or less than others, which means that you may find yourself earning far less or far more than a friend in another state. In some cases your gender may play role, but the main factor is location, and this includes the employer you work for and the specific industry that you work in. Overall the salary is fairly good, making this one of the better job options for a nurse to consider. Working as an ambulatory care nurse has been known to be more lucrative than working as a regular RN.
People who do not line to be tied down to routine and the same work settings day in and day out may find that employment as an ambulatory care nurse is for them. There are a number of nursing specialties that you can focus on, each which brings with it an increase in prestige and respect that you will receive professionally speaking. However, ambulatory care nursing is one of the easier specialties to become involved in and it also provides you with many opportunities to be exposed to different working environments, thereby enhancing your skills set remarkably.