BACKGROUND: As a result of changes occurring in healthcare, providers have become increasingly specialized, resulting in fragmented care of patients and their families. With these changes, the need has developed for professionals who possess both advanced clinical decision-making ability and expanded psychomotor skills to serve as case managers in collaboration with physicians. As a result, evolving and innovative roles for advanced practice nurses have developed in American hospitals. The development of such roles, within the acute care hospital environment, has led directly to the creation of graduate programs to prepare acute care nurse practitioners. OBJECTIVE: This article describes the efforts to develop a specific graduate program to prepare nurses as acute care nurse practitioners. These efforts include the needs assessment, curriculum and role development, implementation, and evaluation of the program. RESULTS: Phase 1 evaluation showed significant support for acute care nurse practitioners. External support for the training and use of nurse practitioners in acute care was evidenced by significant financial support for this program provided by an acute care hospital and a private foundation. The first graduates are now practicing as acute care nurse practitioners; Phase 2 evaluation of patient outcomes is under way. CONCLUSION: The emergence of acute care nurse practitioners has been stimulated by changes in American healthcare. Support for the use of acute care nurse practitioners is significant, but barriers to implementing the role and patient and fiscal outcomes must be studied.

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