As the U.S. population becomes grayer, there is an increased need for healthcare professionals specializing in gerontology. Geriatric nurses devote their time to caring for the 16.5% of U.S. residents aged 65 and older. Older adults have special needs and require a gentle touch when navigating through the healthcare system. With people living longer thanks to advancements in medical care, the demand for skilled geriatrics nurses will continue to grow. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth of 7% for this field between now and 2029.
In this article we will explore:
- What are the duties of geriatric nurses?
- Where can geriatric nurses work?
- How do you become a geriatric nurse?
- What are the certification options for geriatric nurses?
- What is the average gerontology nurse’s salary?
What are the duties of geriatric nurses?
Geriatric nurses do more than deliver healthcare services to older patients. They assist with administering medications, educating patients and caregivers, and guiding daily activities. Their patients can have a range of health conditions, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, or congestive heart failure.
Job responsibilities for geriatric nurses vary depending on their employer. Their primary role is to provide bedside care for elderly patients and to educate their caregivers and families about specific care needs. Some of the other tasks geriatric nurses perform are as follows:
- Administering medications
- Changing surgical or wound dressings
- Collecting blood work and laboratory tests when ordered
- Exercising and massaging patients
- Helping patients with daily living tasks such as bathing, dressing, and using the bathroom
- Measuring and recording vital signs
- Monitoring for signs of elder abuse
- Transporting patients to doctor visits and other appointments
- Triaging/stabilizing patients who require emergency medical attention
Geriatric nurses must closely coordinate with their patient’s medical care team, including primary care physicians. Acting as a liaison for their patients is an important part of the job.
Where can geriatric nurses work?
Geriatric nurses can work in clinics, hospitals, and residential care facilities for senior citizens. Nursing homes and retirement communities also employ nurses who specialize in this field. Other options include working as a traveling nurse who provides in-home care services to elderly clients.
As a gerontology-focused nursing professional, you are not limited to only these settings. There are other creative ways to use your education, training, and passion for helping older patients. You can explore career options in academia, with health insurance companies or medical supply companies that cater to senior citizens. Memory care centers are also an option for employment. Any healthcare organization or provider that works with the elderly may need your services.
How do you become a geriatric nurse?
There are three main steps to becoming a geriatric nurse:
Attend an accredited nursing school to earn either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). An ADN will take between 18 and 24 months to complete, while you can expect to spend roughly four years in school for a BSN. Most nursing programs include classes and modules focused on geriatric nursing. If you already have an ADN, there is an ADN to BSN bridge program that allows you to earn a BSN in 12-18 months. The more education you have, the better your chances of landing your dream job.
Sit for the NCLEX-RN exam so you can become a Registered Nurse (RN). The NCLEX provides questions on the following topics to test nursing candidate knowledge:
- Safe and effective care environments
- Health promotion and maintenance
- Psychosocial integrity
- Physiological integrity
Nursing candidates can expect between 74 and 145 questions for the NCLEX-RN exam. You have up to six hours to complete the test, which includes scheduled breaks.
The final step in the process is to gain bedside experience. As a geriatric nurse, you should seek out job opportunities that provide critical care experience, especially for older patients. It will give you hands-on practice in skills like artificial ventilation and treatment options through the course of a disease cycle.
What are the certification options for geriatric nurses?
Certification is not required to work as a geriatric nurse, but it might give you an advantage over other candidates in your field. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers the Gerontological Nursing Certification (RN-BC) for eligible candidates. To be considered for this certification, nurses must:
- Hold an active RN license
- Have 2 years of experience working as an RN
- Have a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in gerontology in the most recent 3 years
- Have completed 30 hours of continuing education in gerontological nursing.
The initial certification lasts for five years. Credentialed nurses can renew their certification by taking another exam that measures their skills and knowledge of geriatric nursing.
What is the average gerontology nurse’s salary?
Based on data collected from the most recent job postings for geriatric nurses, the national average salary is $72,535 per year. Cities and states that pay above the national average for gerontology nurses include:
|LOCATION||PERCENTAGE ABOVE NATIONAL AVERAGE|
|San Francisco, CA||25.0|
|New York, NY||20.3|
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