Gerontological nurses, also referred to as geriatric nurses, are nurses who specialize in caring for the elderly. They are licensed registered nurses who have pursued either continuing education or training and possibly certification in care for the elderly. These nurses can work in many different settings, ranging from nursing home facilities, hospitals, to providing home care as well. Typical duties go beyond the standard RN duties, because these patients generally need help with everyday living in a way that healthy patients do not. They also assist physicians’ with exams, promote self-care, administer medications, and are integral in educating patients and their families and in forming patient care plans.
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If you choose to pursue this specialty, you will need to get started on your nursing education if you have not already. You will need to become a licensed nurse in your state, which involves earning a nursing degree and then passing your states NCLEX exam (National Council Licensure Examination), given by the state’s board of nursing. You can earn your nursing degree in two to three years by obtaining an Associate Degree in Nursing (ASN/ADN) from a vocational or community college, or you can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) which takes four years. If you do not have an ADN or BSN, you will find the Nursing Programs by state page useful for finding an entry level nursing program or RN to BSN program near you. If you are already a Registered Nurse you may want to explore the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs, offering specialization tracks that prepare students to become a clinical nurse specialist or nurse practitioner with a focus on gerontology. Learn more about a geriatric nurse practitioner job. A Geriatric Care Management Certificate may be a good option for a Registered nurse with any educational background. As you can tell, there is plenty of room for advancement if you choose this nursing path via additional education or with relevant work experience. With the appropriate experience and training, you have the potential to become a director of nursing, a nurse manager, a clinical nurse specialist, a geriatric nurse practitioner, a researcher or a case manager in the field of gerontology. You can also choose an area to focus on within the specialization, such as with patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Certification as a Gerontology Nurse would be the next logical step after pursing your nursing degree and license. It is not required legally to practice as a geriatric nurse, but it is highly recommended by professionals in the field. Certification demonstrates your commitment to the gerontology field, and indicates that you have attained specific knowledge, skills, and expertise that can be applied in any gerontological nursing environment, regardless of the job setting. In order to be eligible to sit for the Geronotoligcal Nursing Certification Exam, you must hold a current RN license in your state and have practiced nursing for two full years. Additionally, you will need a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical experience in gerontological nursing and pursue 30 hours of continuing education in gerontology within three years of taking the exam.
Because the nation’s aging population is growing at an astounding rate, mainly attributed to the baby boomer generation getting older and the fact that people are living longer, the demand for Gerontology Nurses is projected to be high. According to the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, more than 50% of hospital patients are over 65, yet less than 1% of the nation’s registered nurses are certified in gerontology. There is enormous potential here that can translate to great job security and a large choice in job offers with the right training and certification. The average salary for a geriatric nurse is $57,648, with the top 25% earning over $63,000.
This can be a very emotional job, but also a personally rewarding one. It can be challenging having so many patients approaching the end of their life span, which can make this nursing field especially draining emotionally. However, the improvement and comfort you can bring to a geriatric patient’s world as well as their family’s is invaluable. Gerontological nursing is an integral part of health care in our society and one that deserves bright and responsible health care professionals.
(SOURCES: National Gerontological Nursing Association, Journal of Gerontological Nursing, Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, American Nurses Credentialing Center)