A Fresh Way to Prepare ACNPs

Photo by Joe Howell

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing is expanding its training of Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) to include a new subspecialty of intensivists.  Joan King, PhD, RN, program director for the ACNP program, has been awarded a three-year, $800,000 grant from the Health Research Services Administration to work collaboratively with Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Division of Critical Care Anesthesia.

The grant has a strong interdisciplinary focus and was awarded as one approach to solving the rising demand for qualified intensivists. The goal is to help prepare students for expanded roles as intensivists as well as better prepare them as members of multidisciplinary teams managing patients in Intensive Care Units (ICUs).

“We have pulled together the best resources from our physician critical care colleagues, our nurse practitioner faculty colleagues and the School of Nursing into one package and are delivering the curriculum as one integrated program,” said Josh Squiers, MSN, RN, project coordinator.

Under this new model, ACNP students learn from physician and nurse practitioner faculty teaching side-by-side in the classroom, in clinical rotations and in the Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment (CELA), which offers a wide range of simulation technologies such as computerized mannequins that can reproduce real-world scenarios that frequently present themselves in the ICU setting.

Simulation training provides students with the opportunity to participate at a more heightened level than they could with actual patients and provides an educational opportunity with structured debriefing sessions.

“The most unique feature of this grant is the partnership of Critical Care Anesthesia, CELA and the School of Nursing. We are really fortunate to have a progressive critical care practice here at Vanderbilt that integrates critical care-trained physicians and nurse practitioners into interdisciplinary intensivist teams providing state of the art critical care services,” said King.

“This program allows us to take care of the complex patients that are filling the ICUs,” said C. Lee Parmley, MD, JD, executive medical director of the VUMC Critical Care Units. “You see student comfort levels go up and their skill sets improve dramatically. Then, when the students start their careers, they have clinical expertise and are up to speed.”

The ACNP Intensivist grant was developed after a two-year pilot project demonstrated a high level of student interest and a critical need to prepare ACNPs for complex ICU care. As the grant goes forward, King anticipates new clinical sites will be developed, so this interdisciplinary model of practice can expand to other regions of the United States.