California Ambulatory Care Nursing Careers

Ambulatory care nurses (ACN) are members of the registered nurse community. According to Johnson & Johnson, ambulatory care nurses specialize in pain management and general health education for patients with chronic injuries or illness. They provide the medical screenings, triage, and case management that help restore a patient’s ability to live independently.

Ambulatory care nurses work in a variety of environments including ambulatory surgery & diagnostic procedure centers, hospital-based clinic/centers, solo or group medical practices, military and veterans administration settings, nurse-managed clinics, university and community hospital clinics, managed care organizations, colleges and educational institutions, free standing community facilities, care coordination organizations, telehealth service environments, and patients’ homes.

As members of the registered nurse community—the largest group of healthcare workers in the U.S., ambulatory care nurses work in all areas of the U.S. from the smallest rural towns to the nation’s largest cities. While ACNs can be found in exceptionally large numbers across the U.S., the largest populations can be found in the State of California.

Ambulatory Care Nursing Education and Training Programs

To become an ambulatory care nurse, you must obtain an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from a California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN), National League for Nursing (NLN), or American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)/Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredited program. Once you have obtained a degree from an accredited program, you become eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

After obtaining licensure, you must pass the Ambulatory Care Nurse Certification exam to become a certified ACN. The exam is administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). To sit for the exam, you must:

    •    Hold a current, active RN license within a state or territory of the United States
or the professional, legally recognized equivalent in another country
    •    Have practiced the equivalent of 2 years full-time as a registered nurse (RN)
    •    Have a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in ambulatory care and/or
telehealth nursing within the last 3 years
    •    Have completed 30 hours of continuing education in ambulatory care
and/or telehealth nursing within the last 3 years

Education requirements can also be met by completing a Board approved or accredited Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program that offers a track in ambulatory care nursing or other program, such as a nurse transition program, that offers a nurse ambulatory care focus. ACN programs may be completed in 2 to 3 years and may include courses with titles such as:

    •    Advanced Health and Population Assessment
    •    Advanced Health System
    •    Advanced Human Diversity
    •    Complementary and Alternative Therapies
    •    Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
    •    Management Practice issues
    •    Societal and Ethical Issues

Aspiring California-based ACNs must hold an active California RN license to practice in the state.

Ambulatory Care Nursing Schools and Training Programs in California

Ambulatory care nursing is a unique field. As such, only a handful of schools offer solid programs. In the State of California, several top schools offer Board approved/accredited ACN programs. They include:

    •    University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Health Professions, San Francisco, CA
    •    Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona, CA

It is important to note that this career field is growing. In the coming years, aspiring ACNs will see more programs offered through colleges, universities, medical centers, and more. The ACN program at the University of San Francisco is a good indicator. The program just launched within the past several years.

Employment and Earnings Outlook for California Ambulatory Care Nurses

As stated earlier, ambulatory care nurses are members of the RN community. The State of California is home to 249,980 RNs averaging around $94,120 per year, up from $83,040 in 2008 when the state was home to 240,470 RNs. California has the nation’s highest employment level for RNs, with the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale Metro Area leading the pack. Home to 69,540 RNS, this metro area has the 3rd highest employment level for this occupation (among metro areas).

California also offers the nation’s highest average salary for RNs and it is home to the Top 10 Highest Paying Metro Areas for this occupation. The areas include:

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, $122,990 per year
2. Vallejo-Fairfield, $119,310
3. Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, $113,520
4. San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, $110,630
5. Sacramento--Arden-Arcade--Roseville, $107,710
6. Salinas, $105,610
7. Napa, $104,440
8. Santa Rosa-Petaluma, $102,990
9. Modesto, $100,780
10. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, $98,050

The U.S. is home to 2,711,500 registered nurses (RNs), averaging $65,470 per year, and the field is growing. In 2008, the nation was home to 2,542,760 RNs averaging $65,130 per year. For the 2012-2022 decade, employment for RNs is expected to increase by 19% or 526,800 jobs.

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