Long-Term Care Nurse

What Is a Long-Term Care Nurse?

Long-term care nurses work alongside physicians, social workers, case managers, and other healthcare professionals to assist patients who require extended care due to chronic, long-term illnesses and disabilities. Illnesses that long-term nurses will encounter in their practice can include hypertension, chronic kidney problems, osteoarthritis, AIDS, and Parkinson's disease, just to name a few. These nurses can be found working in rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities. Long-term care nurses specialize in performing nursing tasks specific to geriatric populations such as coordinating the care of patients, responding to changes in a patient's status, and providing much needed psychological, emotional, and physical support to families and patients.

What Are Some Long-Term Care Nurse Duties?

Tasks and duties which are commonly carried out by long-term care nurses include the following:

  • Wound and/or ostomy care
  • Range of motion exercises
  • Respiratory therapy
  • Provide emotional support for patients and their loved ones
  • Educate patients and their families about their conditions
  • Administer medication
  • Check vital signs
  • Coordinate and collaborate alongside an interdisciplinary medical team to implement and assess a comprehensive plan of care
  • IV therapy
  • Catheter care
  • Assist patients with everyday tasks like bathing, dressing, feeding, sitting/standing, and using the bathroom
  • Enteral tube feeding
  • Assist doctors during patient examinations

Where Do Long-Term Care Nurses Work?

Long-term care nurses are needed wherever there is a patient population needing extended care services, which often includes the elderly population. Workplace environments include:

  • Assisted living facilities
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Home health care
  • Self-employment

How to Become a Long-Term Care Nurse

To become a long-term care nurse, first you will need to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN). In both cases - for RNs and LPNs - following the successful completion of the required educational programs, passing the NCLEX exams, earning a license to practice, and gaining some experience in the field, individuals can begin practicing as long-term care nurses. RNs who would like to maximize their earning potential and job prospects may want to consider taking additional classes in gerontology during their degree programs or even becoming certified in Gerontological Nursing.

Step 1: Educational Requirements

To become a long-term care registered nurse, the following educational requirements must be met:

  • Earn an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN exam
  • Hold an active and unrestricted RN license

To become a long-term care licensed practical nurse (LPN), the following educational requirements must be met:

  • Complete an approved LPN educational program
  • Pass the NCLEX-PN exam
  • Hold an active and unrestricted LPN license

Do Long-Term Care Nurses Need an RN Degree?

Not in all cases. Some long-term care nurses will hold RN licenses while others will be licensed practical nurses (LPNs). Long-term care nurses who have their RN licenses will be more competitive in the job market and will enjoy higher pay.

Step 2: Required Long-Term Care Nurse Certifications/Credentials

For Registered Nurses (RNs):

Long-term care nurse aspirants can acquire their Gerontological Nursing Certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

To be eligible to take the Gerontological Nursing certification exam, the following requirements must be fulfilled:

  • Hold a current and unrestricted RN license
  • Have practiced at least two years as a full-time RN
  • Have at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice in the specialty of gerontological nursing in the previous three years.

For Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs):

LPNs can seek the long-term care certification through the National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service (NAPNES)

To be eligible to take the long-term care certification exam, the following requirements must be fulfilled:

  • Proof of completion of an approved LPN program
  • Pass the certification exam

Another certification that long-term care nurses - LPNs or RNs - may consider pursuing is the Basic Life Support Certification, which is offered by the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association.

Long-Term Care Nurse Jobs, Salary & Employment

Can you picture yourself investing in the lives of long-term care patients? If so, long-term care nursing may offer you a unique opportunity to make a lasting difference in the quality of long-term care patients' lives. Going forward, as the populous baby boomer generation continues to age, and as their healthcare needs increase, the demand for long-term care nurses will only continue to increase.

Job Description & Information

  • Essential Skills Needed - Empathy, compassion, patience, strong interpersonal and communication skills, ability to stand on your feet for long periods of time, ability to lift patients and move patients, and strong observational and assessment skills
  • Job Outlook - According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of available jobs for RNs is set to grow by at least 16% between 2014 and 2024. Because of the aging population, long-term care nurses can anticipate a similar rate of employment.

What Is the Average Salary of a Long-Term Care Nurse?

According to PayScale.com, the average yearly salary for a licensed practical nurse with long-term care skills is about $44,798 but may range between $32,000 and $59,000. PayScale.com reports that registered nurses with long-term care skills - on average - make yearly salaries of about $66,629, with a range between $45,000 and $82,000. The earning potential of long-term care nurse will depend on factors like the city/state of employment, education and experience level, employer, and credentials. Although the same factors will also contribute to the specific benefits that a long-term care nurse will receive, most can expect to receive medical, dental, and vision insurance coverage, as well as some paid time-off.

How Much Do Long-Term Care Nurses Make per Year?

  • $32,000 – $82,000 annually (depending on LPN/RN status)

How Much Do Long-Term Care Nurses Make per Hour?

  • $20.40 average hourly wage for LPNs
  • $29.65 average hourly wage for RNs

Long-Term Care Nurse Resources