Roles & Responsibilities of an Ambulatory Care Nurse

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A couple of years ago, if you had a surgery such as a knee replacement, or a wrist bone correction, it would take a minimum of a week for you to get discharged. However, today, the process has become relatively quick and is sorted between two to three days, sometimes even the same day. The same-day healthcare services and surgeries are the start of a new trend in healthcare, also called ambulatory care. 

Ambulatory care is also known as outpatient care sometimes. Many nurses who have completed their practical nursing programs and have gained a license are working in ambulatory care nursing. This shift in the field of healthcare affects the patients and all nursing students as future healthcare professionals as well. 

That said, the main question is what is ambulatory care nursing? Keep reading to know the same and other essentials to know about ambulatory care nursing. 

What is Ambulatory Care Nursing? 

Ambulatory care is a discipline that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of people who do not need to stay overnight in a hospital. People who visit doctors in ambulatory care settings are the ones who have conditions that can be diagnosed and treated without any hospitalization. 

The foremost goal of ambulatory care is to diagnose and treat a patient’s illness and injury as soon as possible. This is done by checking the patient, taking a medical history, ordering the right tasks, and prescribing medicines. 

It can be said that ambulatory nursing is a special domain of nursing practice that is focused on healthcare for individuals, families, communities, groups, and populations. Ambulatory care nurses practice in settings that are different from other nurses. They work in primary and specialty outpatient settings, diagnostic outpatient settings, non-acute surgical and telehealth encounters that occur across distances in virtual environments. 

Who is an Ambulatory Care Nurse? 

An ambulatory care nurse is a registered nurse who specializes in offering healthcare for patients who are in the hospital and require minimal bedside service. These nurses also provide care for patients that have been discharged from the hospital but require a follow-up nurse visit. To strengthen the discipline of nursing in Canada, ambulatory care nurses use therapies, techniques, and treatments that are suitable to the patient’s home setting or at a healthcare facility. These nurses work in various settings including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, etc. 

Registered nurses who have completed their nursing education and have sufficient experience qualify as ambulatory care nurses and they look after each patient for a short period of time while often dealing with unpredictable issues. These patient encounters can include collaborative and independent activities. In partnership and collaboration with other healthcare professionals, the ambulatory care nurses address the wellness of patients, acute illnesses, disabilities, end of life needs, etc. 

Registered nurses are responsible for patient advocacy, application of evidence-based nursing knowledge, use of nursing processes during patient encounters, coordination of nursing and other health services, continuity of care for patients as they move across different levels of healthcare continuum services, and educational services. 

What Does an Ambulatory Care Nurse Do? 

Ambulatory care nurses are responsible for the medical care of patients in outpatient settings such as emergency rooms or long-term health facilities. The nurses might be assigned as the primary nurse for one or more patients. Sometimes, these nurses may also offer healthcare services in collaboration with a multi-professional team. 

Some ambulatory care nurses also work at a clinic where they offer ongoing general medical service to patients within a specific age range. This includes taking the history of patients, performing physical examinations, drawing blood, administering treatments such as wound dressings, sutures, immunization shots, and offering advice in the case of chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma. 

Other ambulatory care nurses are found in areas such as nursing homes where they offer routine nursing services for patients who have recovered from injuries but still require assistance with caring for themselves every day. 

How to Become an Ambulatory Care Nurse? 

Ambulatory care nurses typically complete a nursing program in Canada with an associate degree or a bachelor’s in nursing that helps them in gaining a license. However, there are many opportunities for advancement with certifications and earning a graduate degree. 

To become an ambulatory care nurse, the following steps must be taken: 

  1. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree which typically takes around three to four years. You can also complete an Associate degree in nursing which takes two years but that is needed to become an advanced practice nurse. 
  2. The next step is to pass the NCLEX-RN exam for gaining nursing licensure. This is a computer adaptive national exam that includes topics such as health promotion, providing safe and effective patient care, pharmacology, etc. 
  3. Once you have your license, you must gain the necessary clinical experience. Most employers hire nurses who have atleast one to two years of experience in either ICU or post-anesthesia care unit. Outpatient nurses can work in many settings and some may even choose to specialize in a particular type of care. 

Salary and Growth of Ambulatory Care Nurses: 

The field of ambulatory care nursing is extremely wide and because this specialty is so diverse, the employment outlook is also promising. Outpatient procedures are becoming more and more common across the healthcare industry which is also making ambulatory care nursing more desirable. 

The job requirements for ambulatory nursing in Canada include strong organizational skills, a diverse set of interests, strong interpersonal communication skills, the ability to monitor and assess patients quickly and accurately, experience with triage, compassion, and understanding, working well in teams, and functioning in a fast-paced environment. 

The ambulatory care nurses make an average hourly wage of $40.77 per hour and $79,509 per year. The annual salary ranges between $47,902 and $97,286 per year. This salary is dependent on the city and states the nurse is employed in, the experience, level of education, and employing organization. A vast number of ambulatory care nurses who have full-time employment also enjoy the medical, dental, vision, and prescription coverage in their employee benefit packages. 

Future of Ambulatory Care Nursing: 

Many hospitals are diverting their services to outpatient facilities which means that ambulatory care nursing will be growing and expanding in the future. Moreover, ambulatory care is a money-saving measure for hospitals as inpatient hospital stays are costly and demand many resources. Ambulatory care provides hospitals a cost-effective alternative which leads them to further offer services at a fraction of cost and time. 

For making healthcare accessible and affordable to everyone, hospitals have to cut costs and ambulatory care nursing offers a perfect solution to this. As the hospitals begin shifting to outpatient care settings, there will be an increase in quick and same-day health services. This benefits nurses as they will be able to work in outpatient settings which offer more personalized and affordable care to patients. Nurses will be able to hold more routine schedules with no overnights and some who work in the clinics might also enjoy holidays and weekend offs. 


Ambulatory care nursing is a promising field that is shaping the future of healthcare in tangible ways and is slated for considerable growth in the future. There will be an increasing need for nursing professionals in outpatient settings. Hence, nurses who join this field will be able to work in flexible environments while enjoying many on-the-job benefits. 


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