A Guide to Becoming A Geriatric Nurse

A Guide to Becoming A Geriatric Nurse

A geriatric nurse or gerontological nurse helps to care for the aging and elderly population. Right now, there are many nurses that lack expertise in gerontology. As the population continues to age, the need for geriatric nurses will increase. If you are someone who is interested in the study of gerontology and nursing but doesn’t know where to start; we’ve got you covered. Check out our guide on becoming a geriatric nurse, including some frequently asked questions when becoming a geriatric nurse. 

What is a Geriatric Nurse

Geriatric nurses assist older patients by providing professional care and helping patients 50 and over. They help patients maintain independence, mobility, and quality of life. A geriatric nurse is also an advocate. As trained advocates, nurses advocate and intervene when necessary, i.e., elder abuse and neglect. Working with a team of providers, social workers, case managers, and guardians, geriatric nurses help develop individual plans for their elderly patients and ensure patient safety.

FAQ 1: What’s The Difference between a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner and a Geriatric Nurse

Both professions work with elderly patients, but their experiences, skill set, and education differ. 

A Geriatric Nurse (BSN-RN) is a registered nurse who works with physicians to care for elderly patients by taking vital signs, administering medication, and helping patients with daily needs.

A Gerontological nurse practitioner (MSN) has a higher level certification in gerontology and assist physicians or perform exams and procedures. Practitioners are leaders in gerontology who manage long-term care, administer and prescribe medication, and provide psychosocial care for elderly patients, i.e., patients exhibiting loneliness or depression.

Geriatric Nurse Duties

 Geriatric nurses work with patients with various health conditions, including Alzheimer’s, strokes, diabetes, and respiratory failure, while educating patients, guardians, and family members on proper care techniques. But what exactly do they do? Here are some of a geriatric nurse’s duties.

  • Administer medication
  • Assist patients with basic needs, i.e., daily task, dressing, eating, bathing
  • Collect blood and lab test 
  • Consult and coordinate with health care members to assess, plan, implement, and evaluate individual plans for patients
  • Prepare and update patient charts and care plans
  • Assist and prepare equipment for the physician during emergency procedures
  • Continuous assessment of patient-level of independence, injury, or disability
  • Advocate for patients who may be in distress, experience neglect, or depression

A Guide to Becoming a Geriatric Nurse

Step 1: To become a geriatric nurse, you need to become a registered nurse. 

You can either earn an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) from an accredited nursing program. Most geriatric nurses hold a BSN. For registered nurses interested in gerontology, some nursing programs include courses and modules that focus on the subject. 

Step 2: Sit and Pass the NCLEX

 Before you become a registered nurse, you must pass the NCLEX.

Step 3: Gain Critical Care Experience

Working with elderly patients and assessing their needs requires experience, patients, and care. Some nursing students use their clinical time to work with elderly patients, others who volunteer at nursing homes or home care for elderly patients. Having critical care experience, including working with artificial ventilation, understanding different illnesses and ailments, and disease in geriatric patients, allows nurses to assist elderly patients before earning gerontology certification successfully.

Step 4: Earn Geriatric Certification 

While not required, earning a certification allows nurses to advance their careers. While working as an RN, interested nurses can sit for the gerontological nursing certification examination offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). To become certified, you must have an 

  • Active RN license
  • Two years of nursing experience
  • 2,000 hour of gerontological nursing clinical practice experience
  • 30 hours of continuing education (C.E.) credit

Note: They’re less than 100 gerontological nursing programs in the US, with New York having the most available programs schools offer a gerontological program. As the population continues to age, more and more nurses trained in gerontology will be needed.

FAQ 2: Where do they work?

 A geriatric nurse can work anywhere that requires gerontological services. Although most geriatric nurses work in a hospital, nursing homes, and home care, some work for insurance companies, academia and research, medical supply companies, memory care, rehabilitation centers, and government agencies, including case management settings. 

Geriatric Nurse Salary 

Geriatric nurses in the U.S are paid between $15,000 and 192,000 with an average  of $98,860, but depending on education, experience and location.For the highest paid states, California. Massachusetts and New York have the highest paying positions for geriatric nurses. 

Top 5 Highest Paying Cities For Geriatric Nursing 

  • Sunnyvale, CA-$124,911
  • Santa Rosa, CA-$120,743
  • Cambridge, MA-$117,084
  • Vacaville, CA-$114,834
  • New York City, NY-$113,554

FAQ 3: Are Geriatric Nurses in Demand? 

Yes, as the population ages, geriatric nurses will be needed to care, especially in nursing homes and healthcare facilities with elderly members.

Geriatric Nursing Resources

If you’re interested in advanced nursing and gerontology, you can check out the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association. For guides and understanding how to care for patients in assisted living, the American Assisted Living Nurses Association and American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing are great organizations. Organizations like the American Geriatrics Society, American Society of Aging, and Eldercare Workforce Alliance can give you a better understanding of elderly care, educating patients and guardians, and the importance of advocacy and gerontology.

Note: Wondering how to prep for the NCLEX? Check out 5 Things To Do To Prepare For The NCLEX

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About the author

Joycelyn Ghansah

Joycelyn Ghansah is a former Healthcare Organizer with a background public health, include reproductive and sexual health. When she's not freelance writing, she's transcribing interviews and researching ways to strengthen healthcare labor laws.

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