What Does a Ambulatory Care Nurse Do?

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  • Written By: Synthia L. Rose
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2019
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An ambulatory care nurse provides care for non-hospitalized and able-bodied patients who seek services through outpatient facilities, such as doctor’s offices, health clinics and outpatient surgery centers. These nurses might even provide services in a patient’s home. Patients of ambulatory care nurses typically are quite mobile and moderately self-sufficient, although levels of sickness can range from mild to acute. The role of the ambulatory care nurse is to monitor and treat such patients using preventative care strategies so that serious health issues will not develop and result in hospitalization, debilitation or complete dependency. Nurses in ambulatory care do this by forging close and ongoing relationships with patients and caregivers in order to monitor continuity of treatment and quality of health.

Preventative treatment and service provided by an ambulatory care nurse can include screenings, pain management, prescription advice and general consultation. Ambulatory care nurses, all of whom are required to be registered nurses, are also expected to provide patient education, tips for rehabilitation and guidance in proper health habits. Coordinating care provided by all the patient’s doctors can also be a duty of an ambulatory care nurse.


This guidance can be provided on a face-to-face basis but often overwhelmingly occurs via regular phone contact; for example, an ambulatory care nurse generally handles follow-up to patient surgery and monitoring of patient response to new medication or equipment by phone. Problem solving and ability to think critically are two key skills of ambulatory care nurses since follow-up consultations might reveal issues with recovery or adjustment that the nurse will be responsible for addressing through emergency intervention.

In contrast to hospital-based nurses, ambulatory care nurses see high numbers of patients on a recurring, long-term basis for several years or life phases. Individual interactions with patients, however, are typically brief, lasting from less than an hour to a few days at a time; hospitalized nurses, however, might spend weeks at a time with a patient and then never see him again. Ambulatory care nurses often act as liaisons between patients and doctors or other health care staff. They are responsible for relaying patient’s needs and concerns to the complete medical team.

Besides patient care and collation of patient data, duties of an ambulatory care nurse might involve evaluating nursing services for compliance with local and national laws and regulations. Many also plan professional development initiatives for their medical facility. Supervision of unlicensed nurses or practical nurses and the delegation of tasks to such fellow employees are also responsibilities of an ambulatory care nurse. In addition to being licensed as a registered nurse, ambulatory care nurses must also hold cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.


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Post 3

@discographer-- That's a good question. Most people don't know what ambulatory nursing is and rightly so. As far as I know, any nurse that works outside of the hospital can be considered an ambulatory care nurse. So nurses at primary care clinics, or the doctor's office as most people refer to it, are ambulatory care nurses. Ambulatory care just means that the patient can go home after the treatment.

Ambulatory care nurses also work at other settings though, like a rehabilitation center that provides outpatient treatment.

Post 2

So when I go in to the doctor's office for treatment for a deep cut, do I see an ambulatory care nurse? I mean, is this the general term for all registered nurses who work at doctors' offices?

Post 1

Ambulatory care nurses are also great contact points when symptoms develop suddenly or when medications cause side effects.

After my surgery, I was put on some strong pain killers. I was told to let my nurse know if I had any issues. On the second day of medications, I started experiencing some allergy symptoms. They were mild and I wasn't sure of the cause. I called the nurse and she had me stop the medications immediately and asked me to come in for a different prescription.

If I didn't have an ambulatory care nurse to talk to, I might have continued with the medication and had some serious consequences as a result. So it's great to be in touch with an ambulatory nurse after surgery.

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