Geriatric Nurse

What Is a Geriatric Nurse?

Put simply, geriatric nurses are registered nurses who care specifically for elderly patients. These nurses focus primarily on the development and implementation of treatment plans for chronic illnesses and other diseases commonly associated with old age, like hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, strokes, cancer, dementia/Alzheimer's, chronic pain, and respiratory disorders. Geriatric nurses work closely alongside physicians, social workers, and families. They represent an integral component of the healthcare team and look to help older patients to maintain their independence, mobility, and quality of life. Addressing psychosocial issues and the mental health of patients is also one of the primary concerns of the geriatric nurse. Only around 1% of registered nurses are certified in the field of geriatrics.

What Are Some Geriatric Nurse Duties?

  • Administering medication/medication management
  • Helping patients with range of motion exercises and other physical activities so as to maintain the patient's functional mobility
  • Educating the patient along with their families
  • Looking out for signs of elder abuse
  • Gaining an intimate understanding of the health issues of the patient
  • Helping patients get to and from doctor appointments
  • Regularly measuring and recording vitals
  • Acting as a go-between for patients, their families, and various care providers
  • Assisting patients with their daily needs like dressing, bathing, feeding, and using the restroom
  • Helping maintain the patient's psychosocial health
  • Regularly assessing the mental status and cognitive ability of the patient

Where Do Geriatric Nurses Work?

Geriatric nurses care for the elderly in the following settings:

  • Long-term nursing care facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Retirement homes
  • Transitional care units
  • Memory care centers
  • Convalescent home health/in-home care
  • Outpatient ambulatory care clinics
  • Community health clinics

How to Become a Geriatric Nurse

Individuals who are thinking about pursuing a career as a geriatric nurse should have a unique interest in caring for elderly patients. It's also advisable that interested parties gain a significant amount of experience in the field before making a final decision to enter it. Providing nursing care to elderly patients presents a number of unique and difficult challenges that traditional nursing does not. Geriatric nurses should be prepared to face these challenges head-on.

Step 1: Educational Requirements

As you probably would expect, the first step towards holding the title as a geriatric nurse is to earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from a reputable college or university. Graduates will then need to take and pass the NCLEX-RN licensing examination. Upon receiving a passing score on this test, certification as a registered nurse is granted. RNs will then need to meet the requirements to become a board-certified Gerontological Nurse through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Do Geriatric Nurses Need an RN Degree?

Traditionally, geriatric nurses begin their careers by first becoming registered nurses. This involves earning a nursing degree (ADN or BSN) and passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Licensed Professional/Vocational Nurses (LPNs/LVNs), however, often work with geriatric patients in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. While they don't enjoy the same scope of practice that RNs have, LPNs often start in the field of geriatrics and then earn their RN degree to move into positions of higher responsibility.

Step 2: Required Geriatric Nurse Certifications/Credentials

Core credentials/certifications needed for geriatric nurses:

  • BLS or CPR certification
  • Gerontological Nurse (RN-BC) Certification, in which nurses must have:
    • At least two years of experience as a traditional RN
    • Complete 2,000 hours of clinical experience in a geriatric healthcare setting in the previous three years of employment
    • Complete a 30-hour geriatric nursing continuing education course within the previous three years

Geriatric Nurses Jobs, Salary & Employment

As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, the number of people living well past 80 will drastically increase. With that, the demand for geriatric nurses will rise. Elderly people are always much more likely to require healthcare services, so deciding on the geriatric niche might be a smart decision for job security.

Job Description & Information

  • Essential Skills Needed - Strong interpersonal communication skills, compassion and empathy, patience, flexibility, experience with the elderly, versatility, personability, and strong observational skills
  • Job Outlook - The United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) has projected that job growth for RNs will increase by at least 16% between 2014 and 2024. Due to the advancing age of the Baby Boomer generation, this figure is likely to be quite a bit higher for nursing professionals in the geriatric field

What Is the Average Salary of a Geriatric Nurse?

According to PayScale, the median yearly salary for a geriatric nurse is approximately $63,871. Geriatric nursing salaries will depend significantly on the city and state which they're employed in, the number of years they've been working in the field, degrees and specialty certifications, and employer. Although this will also depend on the employing organization, most geriatric nurses who are employed full-time will receive some kind of benefits package which will typically include medical, dental, vision, and prescription insurance coverage. A few weeks of paid time-off each year is also common in this field.

How Much Do Geriatric Nurses Make per Year?

  • $45,000 – $75,000 annually

How Much Do Geriatric Nurses Make per Hour?

  • $25.70 average hourly wage

Geriatric Nurse Resources