Elderly patients face an increasing number of medical issues as they age. As a result, they require the care of talented and specialized healthcare professionals. Geriatric, or gerontology nurses apply their medical training to the diverse needs of seniors. They serve an integral role in the prevention and treatment of medical issues to help elderly patients maintain the highest possible quality of life. Learning how to become a geriatric/gerontology nurse could be the first step toward a rewarding career.
What Does a Geriatric/Gerontology Nurse Do?
As stated before, geriatric/gerontology nurses work directly with seniors. As such, their responsibilities largely focus on age-related diseases, conditions and their ensuing complications. Ailments such as dementia, sensory impairment, mobility issues, and heart disease can be particularly taxing on a senior’s quality of life. Geriatric/gerontology nurses provide relief and consultation where they can. Where small medical problems may not be as portentous for younger adults, they can quickly become life-threatening for immunocompromised seniors.
One way geriatric/gerontology nurses directly impact their patients’ health is through rehabilitation efforts following an injury. Moreover, frequent testing and screening enables a patient’s healthcare team to be notified of any complications. Chronic pain management, and providing assistance with medication and hygiene, are other ways in which these nurses directly impact seniors’ quality of life.
Mental health is another concern for elderly patients, and geriatric/gerontology nurses must be attuned to these particular needs. Furthermore, geriatric/gerontology nurses must be able to spot any evidence of elderly abuse to protect their patients.
Where Do Geriatric/Gerontology Nurses Work?
Geriatric/gerontology nurses work in a variety of environments. Many nurses are employed by traditional hospitals. Others work in nursing homes to provide on-site assistance to residents. Because of mobility and transportation issues, some seniors may require home visits by geriatric/gerontology nurses.
According to 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the largest employers of registered nurses, including geriatric/gerontology nurses, were the following.
- State, local, and private hospitals
- Healthcare services, such as physicians’ offices and outpatient care centers
- Nursing facilities and residential care centers
- Government facilities
- State, local, and private educational services
Steps to Becoming a Geriatric/Gerontology Nurse
There are several steps involved in becoming a geriatric/gerontology nurse. The process typically combines coursework and certifications.
Step 1: Become a Registered Nurse
To become a geriatric/gerontology nurse, individuals must first earn the title of registered nurse (RN). This entails completing an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). After completing one of these programs, students must take the NCLEX-RN exam, administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, to legally practice in the United States.
Step 2: Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Nurses can attain a BSN after they have begun working in the healthcare field, which can be an invaluable asset in learning how to become a geriatric nurse. The skills that nurses gain in a BSN program allow them to adapt to a wide variety of nursing roles and stand out to potential employers. By demonstrating a more thorough mastery of nursing skills, BSN graduates are more likely to be considered for career advancement and other desirable placements.
Step 3: Earn a Geriatric Nursing Certification
The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers a certification exam for nurses who are interested in working in geriatrics. This ensures that prospective geriatric/gerontology nurses have received adequate training to manage the unique needs of senior patients.
Geriatric/Gerontology Nurse Salary
According to the BLS, the median salary of registered nurses, such as geriatric/gerontology nurses, was $73,300 in 2019. Nurses with additional education and training may qualify for higher-than-average salaries.
Salaries can also vary between healthcare settings, such as hospitals and senior care facilities. According to 2019 data from the BLS, these were the median salaries for nurses across top industries and settings.
- $79,790 – Government facilities
- $75,030 – State, local, and private hospitals
- $66,250 – Nursing facilities and residential care centers
- $63,690 – State, local, and private educational services
Future Growth of Geriatric/Gerontology Nursing
As the nation’s population continues to age, the demand for geriatric/gerontology nurses will continue to expand. For example, the BLS forecasts a 12% increase in the employment of registered nurses between 2018 and 2028. There has been a shortage of geriatric/gerontology nurses in recent years as baby boomers require more health services and additional medical care.
Individuals who are interested in helping seniors maintain their quality of life and prevent disease and injury within this vulnerable demographic may want to consider entering the field of geriatric/gerontology nursing.
Geriatric/gerontology nurses play an essential role in healthcare. If caring for seniors interests you, the Maryville University online RN to BSN program could prepare you for one of these rewarding positions.
By pursuing a degree online, registered nurses can continue to work while earning the skills to gain a competitive advantage. Through courses in nursing informatics, family assessment, leadership in contemporary healthcare, and nursing care at the end of life, students gain exposure to the training that can further their career aspirations.
Learn how you can have a rewarding career as a geriatric/gerontology today.
A Look at a Career in Travel Nursing