Geriatric care nurses specialize in the field of gerontology, which is caring for elderly adults. This is a very high demand area of nursing, as the elderly are more likely to need specialized medical services. In fact, ½ of all hospital admissions are for people who are 65 or older, but just one percent of nurses are work in geriatric nursing.
Why Geriatric Nursing? An Interview with Melissa Aselage, PhD, RN-BC, FNP-BC
Geriatric nurses have the skills and training to understand and properly treat the very complex mental and physical needs of the elderly. They try to help patients protect their overall help and to deal with changes in their mental and physical skills. The goal is to have older people stay as active and independent as possible.
In your work as a geriatric nurse, you will:
Do an assessment of the patient’s mental health and their thinking skills
Organize their medications
Try to understand their chronic and acute health problems
Educate them about how to prevent disease and maximize their personal safety
Talk about common health problems of the elderly, such as incontinence, falls and different sleep patterns
Ensure that the patient is staying with their medication regimen
Where Geriatric Care Nurses Work
Geriatric care nurses may work in many types of health settings:
Public and private hospitals
Senior citizen centers
Homes of patients
You will normally work as a key member of a health care team that may include doctors, social workers, nursing aides, occupational therapists
If you work in a hospital, you will usually work with a treatment team that works with a high number of older patients. These might include patients from outpatient surgery, rehabilitation, cardiology, ophthalmology, dermatology and geriatric mental health, including Alzheimer’s disease.
If you work in a rehabilitation facility, you will manage patient care from the initial assessment through the development, implementation and full evaluation of the plan of care. You also may work in the role of administrator, trainer or other form of leadership.
Job Opportunities & Salary Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that employment for all nurses is going to surge by 26% by 2020, which is much faster than average. There will be an influx of aging baby boomers into the health care system who will want more services as they live longer and are more active than generations of the past. So, we can expect that there will be a much higher need for geriatric nurses.
Also, there is more financial pressure on hospitals to discharge people as soon as they can. This means that there are many more patients being admitted to both extended care and long term care centers. There also will be a need for more home healthcare services. This all should mean a higher demand for geriatric care nurses.
BLS finds that the median salary for all nurses is $64,700, so you should expect an annual salary in this range. According to Indeed.com, the national average salary for a geriatric nurse is $70,000 as stated above.
Academic and Other Requirements
As a geriatric care nurse, you need to enjoy working with the elderly. You will need to be very patient, be able to listen carefully and balance patient needs with the demands of family, which sometimes can be in conflict.
To prepare for a geriatric nursing career, you may want to volunteer at a senior center or a nursing home. It is a good idea to grow accustomed to working with people who have problems moving on their own, have hearing or sight loss, cognitive problems and chronic disease. You need to be able to work effectively with people who may not ever become well again. This can be physically and emotionally draining work.
To become a nurse in this field, you must become an RN, usually with a Bachelor’s of Science degree. You then need to pass the NCLEX-RN examination before you can begin practice.
After you have worked in nursing for a few years, you then can work towards certification in geriatric nursing. You can eventually get a master’s degree if you wish, and possibly become a gerontological nurse practitioner or a geriatric nurse specialist.