Long Term Care Nurse

Long term care nurses (LTC nurses) are nurses who care for patients with chronic physical or mental disorders or illness, as well as for patients with injuries or disabilities. Because long term care nurses are specializing by type of nursing treatment and work setting, their patients can be varied and of any age. However, the largest number of LTC nurses work with elderly patients. Many of their patients live in long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, or nursing homes. These long term care nurses’ duties will involve a lot of standard nursing, such as health assessment, monitoring, checking vital signs, administering medication, taking medical histories, and coordinating with other medical professionals, but will also focus on helping their patients with day-to-day activities that they require assistance with. Education and assisting patients and their families to cope with and adjust to living with their conditions is also an important part of long-term care nursing.

You must be a licensed, registered nurse to work as a long term care nurse; however, there are multiple ways to become one. You can earn a standard, four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), or you can earn an associate degree of science in nursing (ASN) in just two to three years, which can also use as a step toward your bachelor’s degree. Earning a nursing diploma from a participating hospital nursing program is also an option, although this is less competitive and less common with the growth of associate programs. If you already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you can enter an accelerated nursing degree program that takes one to two years. All of these pathways will incorporate clinical and hospital experience and classroom training in subjects such as anatomy, pharmacology, microbiology, and chemistry. Once you graduate from an accredited nursing program, passing your state’s board of nursing NCLEX (National council licensure examination) will make you a licensed nurse.

Long term care nursing certification is also possible for the ltc nursing specialty. You can earn certification as a director of nursing in LTC (DON-CLTC) or as a staff development specialist in LTC, or as a registered nurse (RN) in LTC. The American Association of Long Term Care Nursing offers additional information on these long term care nurse certifications and others. Unlike a nursing degree or license, certification is voluntary in the long term care nursing specialty. However, it is often considered a hiring requirement by many competitive healthcare employers, and it will benefit you in many ways should you choose to pursue certification. Not only does certification better prepare you for your job, it shows that you are qualified according to national standards in this field, regardless of where or when you earned your nursing degree. It will likely inspire confidence in your patients and respect in your co-workers. Certification usually requires a small amount of work experience should you pursue it, and professional associations often offer preparatory courses for the exam.

Your salary in long term care nursing will vary, depending on your education, experience, employer and geographic location, but the average salary is $52,000, according to simplyhired.com, and often includes good benefits as well. If you choose the long term care nursing specialty, your career outlook could be very favorable. Not only is nursing in general one of the fastest growing professions according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but those with specialty training like long term care nursing will potentially enjoy additional job security. Additionally, the elderly population is expected to continue growing as the baby boomer population becomes older and begins to strain the healthcare sector’s supply of qualified nurses. Being a trained long term care nurse could mean great job security and plenty of opportunities as the nursing community struggles to meet the growing demand for elder care.

The American Association for long term care nursing is a good professional resource to consult about conference, education, and networking opportunities as well as about regulations and educational requirements. But first find the best educational program to earn your nursing degree, and begin the path toward becoming a long term care nurse.

(Sources: The American Association for Long Term Care Nursing, BLS)

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