What Is the Difference Between an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP and an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP?

adult gerontology nurse with her patient
adult gerontology nurse with her patient

The world of advanced practice nursing provides diverse opportunities for nurses to further their careers and serve patients in a variety of settings. One pathway pursued by nurses who feel called to the clinical setting is the adult-gerontology nurse practitioner role. Registered nurses can become nurse practitioners by first earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, followed by an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner-focused graduate degree, such as those offered by the University of Indianapolis.

Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners can specialize in acute care or primary care. Read on to learn the difference between the two and find out if the role of a primary care adult-gerontology nurse practitioner is right for you.

What Is an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP)?

Role in Patient Care

An AGACNP is a nurse practitioner who specializes in care for patients over age 18. AGACNPs have earned certification in acute care. They can provide preventive care, treat emergent conditions, and help patients manage chronic illness. They can diagnose disease, order tests, prescribe medicine, and advocate for patients.

Practice Setting

By definition, AGACNPs work in acute care settings and can help patients across a number of specialties from cardiology to oncology. Acute care is time-sensitive. AGACNPs employ rapid interventions to treat sudden, emergent conditions with the primary goal of stabilizing patients. Patients requiring acute care can be treated in critical care settings and inpatient/outpatient facilities, including but not limited to:

  • Emergency rooms
  • Intensive care units (ICUs)
  • Surgical settings
  • Specialized clinics (e.g., dialysis, acute rehabilitation) 
  • Urgent care facilities
  • Doctor’s offices
  • Hospitals


Job Outlook and Pay

The job outlook for nurse practitioners broadly is excellent, with the profession expected to grow by more than 50% between 2020 and 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For AGACNPs, the growth is smaller but still positive. The National Center for Health Workforce Analysis projects the demand for critical care physicians and nurse practitioners will grow by 16% from 2013-2025. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), the median income of a full-time AGACNP is $113,000.

Job Skills

AGACNPs must thrive in fast-paced, high-pressure environments and be able to make decisions quickly. Often their work is very time-dependent, so they must be able to gather and evaluate information efficiently, weigh options, communicate with patients and their families, and perform interventions with speed and accuracy.

Some common clinical skills required of acute care nurse practitioners include:

  • Interpreting chest x-rays
  • Ordering and interpreting laboratory tests and 12-lead electrocardiograms (ECGs)
  • Managing ventilator therapy
  • Performing defibrillation
  • Suturing
  • Wound debridement

Depending on the care setting, AGACNPs may also have skills related to specialty areas like emergency care or trauma care, such as:

  • Intubation
  • Central line placement
  • Nerve blocks
  • Lumbar puncture
  • Splinting
  • Chest tube insertion/removal

primary care nurse with patient

What Is an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP)?

Role in Patient Care

An AGPCNP is a nurse practitioner who specializes in providing primary care to adults over age 18. They can order tests, make diagnoses, and prescribe treatment. They usually see patients on a non-emergent basis and provide expertise to help patients maintain good health over the long term. They may provide preventive medicine and help patients manage chronic illness.

Practice Setting

AGPCNPs can work in a variety of settings including but not limited to:

  • Private practices
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Hospital-based clinics
  • Group practices

Job Outlook and Pay

Like other types of nurse practitioners, AGPCNPs enjoy strong demand for employment. According to AANP, these professionals earn a median income of $112,000 per year.

Job Skills

AGPCNPs must possess good communication skills and be able to both listen closely to patients and translate diagnoses, prognoses, and instructions in a language that is clear and adapted for various levels of understanding and cultural sensitivities. More so than other types of nurse practitioners, AGPCNPs take into account a variety of social determinants of health and craft long-term well-being plans for their patients with these in mind. They must be able to develop relationships and foster trust with their patients.

Some clinical skills that AGPCNPs frequently employ include but are not limited to:

  • Gathering medical histories
  • Physical examinations
  • Ordering and interpreting tests
  • Prescribing therapies 
  • Educating patients and caregivers


The primary difference between acute care and primary care adult-gerontology nurse practitioners is that AGACNPs provide care that is episodic, while AGPCNPs provide care that is more routine. The urgency of the acute care setting tends to require AGACNPs to employ more skills relevant to emergency medicine and interventions with immediate results, whereas the primary care setting requires AGPCNPs to help patients find strategies that can be employed over the life span to maximize health and prevent disease.

Both AGACNPs and AGACNPs treat adult patients of the same age and life stage. Their practice settings can have some crossover, but generally, AGACNPs can work in a larger variety of specialty care settings. The median pay for both professions is very comparable. 

Career Advancement Opportunities for Aspiring Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners

Nurses who would like to advance in a clinical, administrative, or academic career may find that becoming a nurse practitioner provides the practical scope, compensation, autonomy, leadership, and challenges they desire. 

To become an AGPCNP, the first step is to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Next, nurse practitioner (NP) candidates must complete an NP graduate degree program.

The University of Indianapolis offers two programs for aspiring adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners:


Both of these programs are online, allowing for maximum flexibility for you to continue working while completing your degree. The online setting also removes the barrier of travel or geographic location if you can’t or don’t want to relocate for their education.

At the University of Indianapolis, you will find an inclusive environment, outstanding faculty, and a nationally ranked program to prepare you for a rewarding career as an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner.


Learn more about the University of Indianapolis’s online MSN-AGPCNP and BSN-DNP AGPCNP programs