Geriatric nursing, also referred to as gerontological nursing, is a subfield of nursing that involves care for older adults. Geriatric nurses have a vast array of options in regards to where they can work such as assisted living facilities, hospitals, health centers, nursing homes and private home care. Many geriatric nurses advance in the geriatric field to work in supervisory positions and educational roles. As a geriatric nurse you will be involved with a wide range of duties including direct medical care, developing treatment plans for chronic illnesses, counseling families of the elderly and family collaborations. Geriatric nurses are compassionate and dedicated to the care of the elderly. Statistics have shown that people are living longer and the demand for geriatric nurses is continually on the increase.
How to Become a Geriatric Nurse
In order to work in the field of geriatric nursing you will first need to become a registered nurse (RN). There are a few options to choose from to become an RN including a nursing diploma, an Associate of Science degree in nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN). A nursing diploma is typically earned through a hospital that offers nursing diploma programs. An Associate of Science degree can be earned through many community colleges, technical colleges and universities. An Associate of Science degree is typically a 2-4 year program. An ASN program prepares you for the exam you will have to take to obtain a nursing license, as well as prepare you for working in the field of nursing.
The BSN program is usually offered through universities and is typically a 4-6 year program. Both an ASN and a BSN prepare you for the exam and working in the field of nursing, though a BSN is favored among many employers. A BSN prepares you for a Master of Science in nursing (MSN) should you ever want to further your education, and if you want to work in a supervisory or educational field, most require a MSN degree. It is beneficial to narrow down the type of geriatric nursing you are interested in, such as administration or patient care, as this will help to prepare for choosing the appropriate degree and any additional certifications you may need.
Once you have graduated from an accredited nursing program and passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) you can then study for certification in geriatric nursing. In order to be certified in geriatric nursing, most states require you have two years in general practice as a licensed RN with at least 2000 hours of practice and 30 or more hours of continuing education in geriatric nursing. To work as a clinical nurse specialist in geriatric nursing, the certified nursing program you attend must include 500 hours of supervised clinical practice in a geriatric program, as well as courses in advanced pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology and advanced health assessment.
Geriatric Nursing Employment Options
As a geriatric nurse, there are several excellent employment options available with duties that may include conducting routine screenings and check-ups for elderly patients and developing patient care plans. Other responsibilities include administering medications, helping with rehabilitation following an injury, assisting with pain management and personal hygiene care such as preventing bedsores. Some of the places you can work include:
· Hospitals-working in a hospital is a popular choice for geriatric nurses because you will have an opportunity to serve a large population of aging patients. There is a vast array of geriatric nursing positions in a hospital such as geriatric mental health, rehabilitation, and cardiology or outpatient surgery.
· Assisted living centers or nursing homes-both of these types of facilities cater to the needs of geriatric patients and they are the most common places for geriatric nurses to work. These facilities are always in need of good nurses that can provide compassionate care to the facility residents.
· Rehabilitation facilities-following surgery, elderly patients often require rehabilitation, and will go stay at a facility that is specifically designed to provide rehabilitation treatments for elderly patients. The roles of a geriatric nurse in a rehabilitation facility vary greatly, ranging from providing surgery after-care to providing therapeutic treatments.
· Hospice and palliative care-geriatric nurses are a vital necessity for a hospice or palliative care facility. In a hospice facility your role is to provide comfort and end of life care to patients. As a geriatric nurse working in hospice care, you can either work in the facility or as a home care hospice nurse.
· Private home care-many elderly people prefer to remain in their homes; however, they need assistance with medications, personal care and companionship. As a geriatric home care nurse, you could find work as a live in nurse or have several patients that you visit and provide care for on a regular basis.
Salary and Outlook for Geriatric Nurses
The salary for a geriatric nurse varies depending on the region in which you live and the position you are working in. However, the average salary for geriatric nursing ranges between $40,000 and $60,000. There continues to be a growing demand for skilled geriatric nurses to provide care to elderly patients in many different health care settings. It has been reported by the AACN that by the year 2030, 20% of all Americans will be aged 65 and over, and elderly patients represent about one half of all hospital stays. When considering these statistics, the field of geriatric nursing will significantly expand over the coming years.