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.
Tasks and duties which are commonly carried out by long-term care nurses include the following:
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:
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.
To become a long-term care registered nurse, the following educational requirements must be met:
To become a long-term care licensed practical nurse (LPN), the following educational requirements must be met:
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.
For Registered Nurses (RNs):
To be eligible to take the Gerontological Nursing certification exam, the following requirements must be fulfilled:
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:
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.
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.
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.