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.
Geriatric nurses care for the elderly in the following settings:
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.
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.
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.
Core credentials/certifications needed for geriatric nurses:
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.
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.