What Is Post-Acute Care?

Woman with short hair and pink top.
Written by Kathleen Walder Content Writer, IntelyCare
Image of content creator sitting on a couch and smiling at camera
Reviewed by Ayana Dunn, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Young nurse talking with elderly resident in post-acute care.

Post-acute care refers to the treatment a patient will receive in a nursing facility while recovering from an illness or surgery. When a patient is cleared for release after a stay in a medical facility, they may not always be ready for complete independence. In this case, their doctor can write an order for post-acute care (PAC).

But exactly what is post-acute care and what does it look like in practice? Lack of post-acute care for a patient can lead to hospital readmission. Hospitals in areas with post-acute care resources see lower readmission rates. The top reasons for avoidable readmissions include:

  • Inadequate therapy to treat the diagnosed condition
  • Insufficient investigation that led to an incorrect or incomplete diagnosis
  • Poor discharge planning
  • Hospital-acquired infection
  • Drug-related reason

The elderly in particular may need post-acute care, especially if they live alone.

What Is a Post-Acute Care Facility?

There are a number of post-acute care settings that require skilled professionals to tend to patients, including:

  1. Long-term care hospitals
  2. Inpatient rehabilitation facilities
  3. Skilled nursing facilities
  4. The patient’s home, through home health agencies

Note that post-acute and long-term care are similar, but post-acute care is administered to patients of all ages whereas long-term care usually refers to elderly patients. If you’re curious about openings in PAC facilities, check out the current list of nursing jobs available on IntelyCare.

What Are Examples of Post-Acute Care Services?

Much of post-acute care’s goal is to help patients regain their strength, usually after being treated in an acute care hospital. It can also boost their self-confidence as well as the ability to take care of themselves. Some forms of post-acute care provide support for permanent conditions. Each type of post-acute care requires a specific nursing skill set to offer various services and treatments depending on the patient’s needs:

1. Rehabilitation Therapy

The goal of rehabilitation therapy is to enable a patient to return to their highest possible level of independent functioning. This type of therapy includes activities to build strength, coordination, and mobility. Along with physical therapy, cognitive, emotional, and social functioning can be emphasized. Caregivers are trained alongside patients to help with daily activities, including dressing, bathing, eating, and grooming. Some rehabilitation services include memory, comprehension, and communication therapies.

2. Skilled Nursing

Skilled nursing facilities (also known as SNFs) provide around-the-clock or frequent care from RNs and CNAs. Patients are typically those discharged after an emergency hospital stay or diagnosed with a terminal illness requiring a high level of care. These patients receive wound care, IV therapy, injections, and vital sign monitoring with medical equipment.

3. Long-Term Care

Doctors often refer patients with chronic conditions that limit their physical abilities to long-term care facilities. They receive medical and rehabilitation care and health services, including optometry, podiatry, dentistry, psychiatry, respiratory care, and wound care.

4. Hospice Care

Terminal patients in their final stages can receive hospice care at home or in a hospice facility to live as fully and comfortably as possible every day. Hospice provides care and comfort as well as pain management and symptom control. Emotional and spiritual support during hospice care is essential for patients and their loved ones. Learn more about hospice nursing.

5. Respite Care

Loved ones who provide around-the-clock care for chronically ill patients are often responsible for other people or tasks. Respite care in the form of home healthcare or care in a facility allows caregivers to recharge and balance their lives while the patient receives high-quality care.

What Is Post-Acute Care vs. Other Types of Care?

The terminology for care that occurs outside a hospital setting can be confusing. Here are the differences in post-hospital care:

What Is Post-Acute Care vs. Subacute Care?

The terms subacute care and palliative care are interchangeable and refer to care for chronic conditions that are likely to be fatal, like cancer or heart failure. Subacute-care patients receive comfort and medical care for symptoms as well as curative care.

What Is Post-Acute Care vs. Skilled Nursing?

Skilled nursing is a subset of post-acute care that requires RN-level treatments like administering meds and using medical equipment.

What Is Post-Acute Care vs. Acute Care

Acute care is for illness or injury that requires immediate but short-term action, including emergency room treatment, trauma care, surgery, short-term stabilization, and urgent care. Post-acute care is administered after a patient becomes stable.

What Types of Healthcare Professionals Work in Post-Acute Care?

Licensed RNs, LPN/LVNs, and CNAs staff post-acute care facilities. Depending on the facility, you can find these opportunities to work in post-acute care:

  • Audiologist
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Licensed Nurses (CHPLN)
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurses (CHPN)
  • Charge Nurse
  • Floor Nurse
  • Nurse Assessment Coordinator (NAC)
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nutritionist/Dietitian
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Oncology Nurse
  • Pain Management Nurse
  • Physical Therapist
  • Psychiatric Nurse
  • Resident Assistant
  • Speech Language Pathologist
  • Speech Therapist
  • Wound Nurse

What Is Post-Acute Care Certification?

Certifications for post-acute care are optional, but can increase your value to an employer. Three national organizations administer PAC certifications: The Institute of Post-Acute Care (INSPAC)

  • PAC-NE PAC Certified Nurse Exec
  • PAC-LPN PAC Cert Legal Nurse Prac
  • PAC-DON Dir of Nursing
  • PAC-NL Nurse Leader
  • PAC-CSE Staff Educator
  • PAC-RN
  • PAC-HHP Home Health & Hospice

American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing (AAPACN)

  • Resident Assessment Coordinator-Certified (RAC-CT®)
  • Director of Nurse Services-Certified (DNS-CT®)
  • QAPI Certified Professional (QCP®) certification

Association for the Advancement of Post-Acute Care Excellence (AAPACE)

  • Post-Acute Care Certification (PAC-C)

What Is Post-Acute Care Nurse Scheduling Like?

With Intelycare, you can work in a PAC facility when and where it’s convenient for you. Pick your shifts, days, and locations that work with your life by starting your application today.