When we picture nurses, we often picture them working in hospitals. However, many nurses choose to work at ambulatory care, or outpatient care, facilities such as a physician’s office.
Working as an ambulatory care nurse is often not as demanding or time-consuming as other types of nursing, but still provides a rewarding and fulfilling career path. Ambulatory care nurses can choose to work in different specialties such as pediatrics, geriatrics, gynecology or urology.
In these settings, nurses apply their medical and scientific knowledge to evidence-based information, working to reach the best outcome for their patients.
What Does an Ambulatory Care Nurse Do?
To be successful as an ambulatory care nurse, mastering basic nursing skills are key, as is a willingness to develop a vast base of scientific knowledge. Ambulatory care nurses are charged with specialized duties such as:
- Use critical reasoning and clinical judgment to assess the needs of a patient and expedite care
- Provide lifelong, continuous health care to individuals or communities
- Establish relationships with patients and their families through consistent communication
- Maintain a friendly attitude and work in a compassionate manner
- Coordinate efforts from the appropriate healthcare and community services to provide ongoing treatment for patients
- Advocate for patients and their best course of treatment
- Become familiar with government regulations, the cultures of different patient populations and the availability of community services in different areas
- Continue the learning process in order to stay up to date with changing technologies and nursing practices
Additionally, many nurses in this field utilize telehealth to communicate with their patients. They must be able to assess symptoms, provide consultation, follow up and monitor patients either over the phone or via video chat platforms.
Most work in a physician’s office, but many other healthcare organizations such as free clinics, outpatient surgery centers, veterans’ administration services and university clinics utilize ambulatory care nurses. Some may also provide home health services to their patients who are unable to easily leave their homes, or might work with a lower-income community to educate parents on healthcare services in their area and proper nutrition for young children.
Job Growth and Pay
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not yet track ambulatory care nursing separately from registered nurses (RN), but predicts that RN employment will increase by 16% from 2014-2024. This increase can be attributed to many reasons, including an aging baby boomer population, an increase in chronic conditions and more emphasis being placed on preventive care. As of May 2016, registered nurses could expect to earn an average annual salary of $68,450.
In an office setting, nurses may hold many different job titles, such as:
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Nursing director
- Nurse practitioner
- Nurse supervisor
- Staff nurse
As insurance and HR departments encourage employees to visit ambulatory care facilities over hospitals, this field will continue to grow and evolve. Ambulatory care provides ample opportunities for growth and career development.
How to Become an Ambulatory Care Nurse
To enter the ambulatory care field, a nurse usually comes on as an RN. To further advance a career, consider obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Those who want to become nursing administrators, or supervisors, should think about earning a master’s degree in nursing informatics, leadership in healthcare systems or clinical nurse education. In addition, ambulatory care nurses also must complete a certification exam given through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.