Changes in how and where care is delivered to patients has resulted in the shift of many procedures to outpatient settings. Many surgeries can now be safely performed without an overnight hospital stay. Care can safely be provided in these settings, but it can also typically be provided more efficiently and at a lower cost. Ambulatory care now makes up a substantial part of the continuum of care.
The number and types of procedures that can be performed in an ambulatory care setting is and has been increasing rapidly as payors, physicians and patients become more accepting of this model, making ambulatory care one of the fastest-growing segments of healthcare. The growth in ambulatory care is predicted to continue and healthcare leaders will continue to deal with the challenges presented by industry growth.
To prepare for a nursing career in an ambulatory care area, the first step is to earn a bachelor or associate degree in nursing and pass the required exam(s) to become a nurse. Nurses may also elect to become board certified in ambulatory care nursing after gaining clinical experience in the setting.
Ambulatory care nurses will provide care across a wide range of life stages from infancy to the elderly. A good ambulatory nurse will need to have strong organizational skills as well as solid critical thinking skills to be able to work in the typically fast-paced ambulatory care areas. They will also need strong communication skills in order to provide the necessary education and discharge instructions for their patients.
Ambulatory nurses provide care for patients who are receiving diagnostic and treatment services that do not require an inpatient hospital stay. They may work in a variety of settings including ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), outpatient offices or primary care offices and work under the supervision of a physician. They will be found in pre-operative, inter-operative and post-operative areas. In these settings they may be responsible for taking patient histories, performing physical exams, preparing patients for surgery, administering treatments such as immunizations, blood draws, beginning infusion treatments, changing wound dressings and monitoring patients in the PACU. They also have an important role in providing patient advocacy, education and discharge instructions. Increasingly, ambulatory care nurses may find themselves working in telehealth to do assessments, triage and patient education.
Nurses choosing to practice in this setting may find themselves working in the fast-paced environment of an ASC, but their options are by no means limited to ASCs. In addition, ambulatory care nurses may choose to become board certified in this specialty or they may choose to pursue leadership, administration or policy making positions that will help them have a different kind of impact on care delivery in this setting.
In addition to these roles, nurses may also choose to move into other ambulatory care areas such as physician office practices, Emergency Departments, specialty clinics such as infusion centers and urgent care clinics where strong organizational and communication skills along with the ability to work in a fast-paced environment are also essential. In addition, nurses may choose to move into inpatient care such as regular acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and rehabilitation facilities.
As the shift to provide more procedures in an outpatient setting continues, it brings staffing shortages into sharper focus for these care settings. While the stability of schedules in ambulatory care areas can make working in these settings very attractive for nurses, it has not made this care setting immune from the challenges of an apparently perpetual nursing shortage. High turnover and shortages can impact a provider’s ability to provide consistent, high-quality care for patients and it may also be a barrier to creating an environment where engaged and satisfied employees thrive.
HealthStream offers a number of solutions that can help your organization build and retain the skilled workforce that will be critical to meeting the service demands in these settings where continued growth is expected.
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