About/FAQs: What is Ambulatory Care / Clinic Nursing?

Ambulatory Care and Clinic nurses provide rapid assessments to high volumes of patients in a short span of time while dealing with issues that are not always predictable. Care is provided on an out-patient basis which includes Physician Clinics, Advanced Practice Nurses Clinics, Urgent Care Centers, and some Emergency Department encounters.

Last Update Dec 30, '16

Ambulatory Care Nurse $64,000
Job Outlook Positive
Education Requirements (minimum) RN, Certification

(data provided by Bureau of Labor Statistics; salary.com)

The American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nurses (AAACN) defines professional ambulatory care nursing as: ...a complex, multifaceted specialty that encompasses independent and collaborative practice. The comprehensive practice of ambulatory care nursing is built on a broad knowledge base of nursing and health sciences, and applies clinical expertise rooted in the nursing process. Nurses use evidence-based information across a variety of outpatient healthcare settings to achieve and ensure patient safety and quality of care while improving patient outcomes.

Ambulatory Care Nurses care for individuals, families, and groups in a variety of settings outside the hospital. Ambulatory care nursing is a nursing specialty with its own professional society, standards of practice, certification, performance measurement criteria, and body of literature for evidence-based practice.

With patients living longer with chronic diseases, complications, and comorbidities, patient care is shifting to the outpatient setting, bringing sicker patients into the ambulatory care arena. Hospital stays are shorter today with follow up care being handled in ambulatory care settings. The need for more and better prepared RNs has never been greater. As a result of these changes, RNs have more opportunities for a variety of roles in a broad array of settings.

Work Environment for Ambulatory Care Nurses

Ambulatory nurses work in a variety of settings: primary care and specialty outpatient clinics, call centers, physicians' offices, community centers, freestanding health clinics, nurse-managed clinics, ambulatory surgery centers, patients' homes, and telehealth service environments. The responsibilities, working environment, resources, and degree of independence vary considerably between these different ambulatory settings.

Ambulatory Care Nurse

Ambulatory Care Nursing Skills and Responsibilities

Although ambulatory nursing can involve direct patient care, an ambulatory care nurse is often more the organizer and manager of care rather than the direct provider of care. This type of working environment requires a strong clinical background, leadership skills, and autonomous critical thinking ability that is very different from that employed in acute care. Ambulatory nurses interact with patients not only face to face but over the telephone and computer as well. In the absence of direct sensory input, very different assessment and communication skills are needed.

Education Requirements for Ambulatory Care Nurses

In the past, Ambulatory care nurses were required to be Registered Nurses with a minimum of two years' experience working as an RN. Although that still may be preferred in some settings, many nurses are able to obtain positions in an ambulatory care setting with less experience. In fact, some settings will even consider new grads.

Although there is no additional training required, certification is available, and is preferred in most states.

Criteria for certification is as follows:

  • 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.
  • 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

Ambulatory Care Nursing Job Outlook

As a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which ensures access to health insurance for millions of Americans who are currently uninsured, it is anticipated that these newly insured people will flood the healthcare system, particularly ambulatory care settings. Additionally the Affordable Care Act's emphasis on primary care and prevention will increase patient volume in existing primary care practices. Nurses will be needed for new roles in the ambulatory setting such as care coordination, chronic disease management, and telehealth.

Search for Ambulatory Care Nurse Jobs

With the development of these new roles in healthcare and the increase in procedural care occurring outside the hospital in settings such as infusion centers and ambulatory surgery centers, opportunities for RNs in ambulatory care will continue to increase. Many of the more traditional ambulatory settings such as primary care are beginning to hire more RNs in preference to medical assistants.We have already seen a downward trend in hospital hiring. Nurses seeking jobs will increasingly look to ambulatory care settings as a viable option for employment.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, ambulatory care nursing jobs have a positive outlook. There will be a 22 percent growth in this field between 2011 and 2018. This is much faster than the national average of all other occupations. The increased demand will be due to a rising elderly population, and an emphasis on preemptive health care.

Ambulatory Care Nurse

Associations & Resources for Ambulatory Care Nurses

American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN) - The American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN) is the association of professional nurses and associates who identify ambulatory care practice as essential to the continuum of high quality, cost-effective health care. The mission of the Academy is to advance the art and science of ambulatory care nursing.

American Nurses Credentialing Center - The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association (ANA). ANCC is the world's largest and most prestigious nurse credentialing organization, and it works to serve the broader mission of ANA to advance the nursing profession.

AAACN Viewpoint Newsletter CNE - ViewPoint, the official newsletter of the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN), is a peer-reviewed, bimonthly publication for nursing professionals. The newsletter is dedicated to presenting up-to-date information on current topics in ambulatory care nursing and telehealth nursing practice. ViewPoint also provides a forum for communication between the AAACN Board of Directors and association members.

Ambulatory Care Nursing Guides/Downloads

Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Advice for new clinic job
    FAQs by jen42 Jul 19, '06