Geriatric Nurse Careers & Salary Outlook

Several factors create demand for nurses and other medical professionals who can provide gerontological care. These factors include an aging population of baby boomers, a robust economic climate, and improved healthcare services that prolong life. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects high growth rates for registered nurses (15%) and advanced practice registered nurses (31%), reflecting this demand.

This guide covers important information about becoming a geriatric nurse practitioner, including duties and responsibilities, academic and training requirements, and licensure and certification requirements.

Video Interview With a Geriatric Nurse

What Is a Geriatric Nurse?

Geriatric nurses, also referred to as gerontology or gerontological nurses, undergo specialized training that gives them the skills necessary to care for elderly patients and address their specific healthcare needs.

What Does a Geriatric Nurse Do?

Geriatric nurse practitioners possess the skills and training to understand and properly treat the complex mental and physical needs of the elderly. They assist patients in protecting their overall health and manage changes in their mental and physical skills to help patients maintain their activity levels and independence.

The responsibilities of geriatric nurses include:
  • Assessing patients' mental health and cognitive abilities
  • Organizing medications
  • Examining chronic and acute health problems
  • Educating about disease prevention and personal safety
  • Discussing common health problems of the elderly, such as incontinence, falls, and different sleep patterns

Where Do Geriatric Nurses Work?

Geriatric nurses can work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, private homes, and retirement communities. A geriatric nurse's responsibilities depend on the type, size, and services of the facility where they work.

What is an Advanced Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)?

To become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), registered nurses must complete a master of science degree in nursing. The path to an MSN differs for diploma- and associate-trained RNs and RNs with a bachelor's degree in nursing. An APRN who specializes in gerontology is known as an advanced gerontological nurse practitioner (AGNP).

Adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioners (AG-PCNP) help patients manage chronic diseases, such as diabetes. Adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AG-ACNP) treat adults with acute episodic illnesses, such as pneumonia.

Geriatric nurses can work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, private homes, and retirement communities

Why Pursue Geriatric Nursing?

Geriatric nurses and geriatric nurse assistants enjoy many job opportunities and higher-than-average salaries. It's a challenging and rewarding professional arena that allows professionals to make a positive and lasting impact on patients' health and quality of life.

Job Growth

The aging baby boomer population is a primary contributing factor to the demand for nurses. The table below presents BLS data indicating the strong job growth potential for RNs and APRNs.

Geriatric Nurse Salary

Both RNs and APRNs can pursue a geriatric specialization. However, as shown in the table below, APRNs enjoy greater earning potential because of their advanced training and education.

Requirements to Become a Geriatric Nurse

Education

There are a variety of geriatric nursing requirements. First, nurses can begin careers as RNs by completing a two-year associate or four-year bachelor's degree in nursing. Geriatric nursing programs prepare graduates to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). ADN and BSN programs often require students to enroll in similar courses, such as chemistry, nutrition, physiology, and anatomy. However, BSN students can gain specialized knowledge in fields like gerontology.

An MSN deepens a nurse's knowledge and skills, qualifying them for leadership positions in the field. Several accredited schools offer bridge programs that give RNs advanced degrees in a relatively short period of time.

Licensure and Certification

Every state requires nurses to hold RN licensure to practice. Although certification is not typically required to work as an RN, it demonstrates expertise and increases employment opportunities.

  • Becoming a Registered Nurse

    Nursing licensure requirements vary by state, but they typically include at least two components: graduating from an accredited program and passing the NCLEX-RN. Some states require nurses to pass a criminal background check. Nurses should make sure they can meet the licensure requirements of the state they plan to practice in by checking with the state's board of nursing.

  • Gerontological Nursing Certification

    Licensed RNs can take this optional, competency-based certification administered by the Gerontological Nursing Board of the American Nurses Credentialing Center to earn a geriatric nurse certification. A passing score earns the registered nurse-board certified (BC-RN) designation, which remains valid for five years.

  • Becoming an Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

    State nursing boards determine the licensure requirements for nurses who wish to become APRNs. However, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing works to standardize professional requirements for APRN licensure across all 50 states to make sure all patients receive the same level of care.

  • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification
    (AGACNP-BC)

    Nurses with a current and unencumbered RN or APRN license and an MSN can take this certification exam. Renewal takes place every five years and requires continuing education units.

  • Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification
    (AGPCNP-BC)

    Qualification for this examination requires the same academic and professional credentials as the AGACNP-BC certification. The test focuses on primary care professional responsibilities, such as disease diagnosis, treatment, and management.

Gerontology Nurse Resources

  • Alzheimer's Association APRNs and other healthcare professionals working with Alzheimer's patients and their families can find the latest research, studies, and scholarly articles on this organization's website. Healthcare professionals can find grant opportunities, clinical trials, and local professional resources.
  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners Boasting 98,000 members, AANP supports and advocates for nurse practitioners. The organization offers continuing education units and an annual conference with networking and mentoring opportunities.
  • American Geriatrics Society AGS offers programs for geriatric healthcare professionals as well as older adults and their families and caregivers. It also publishes a regular newsletter covering policy and advocacy issues affecting the elderly and the geriatric healthcare field. Members can access the online career center for job leads and professional advice.
  • American Society on Aging ASA offers members several professional, educational, and volunteer opportunities, such as networking events, webinars, podcasts, and an active job board. ASA sponsors an annual Aging in America Conference, where members can learn about the latest research and professional developments in the field.
  • Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association Founded in 1981, GAPNA supports APRNs at various points in their careers. The organization offers continuing education, networking, and mentoring opportunities. The website also features a members-only job board.