By 2040, the percentage of people living in the country who are older than 65 years old is expected to increase from 14.1% to 21.7%. This translates to more work opportunities, particularly for geriatric nurses.
If you are interested in becoming one, below is a step-by-step guide on how to pursue a career in geriatric nursing.
What is Geriatric Nursing?
Geriatric nursing is concerned with providing care to older patients. It focuses on helping them maintain not just their independence and mobility but their quality of life, too.
As a geriatric nurse, you’ll be trained to anticipate the needs of your patients and work closely with their primary care physicians, social workers, and families in creating an appropriate care plan for their case.
To start your career in geriatric nursing, you’ll need to earn your nursing degree. You can spend two years for an Associate degree or 4 years for a Bachelor’s degree. Both will give you the chance to sit and take the NCLEX. However, a lot of hospitals favor nurses with a Bachelor’s degree.
After passing the NCLEX and acquiring your license, you can continue your education and earn your master’s degree to really focus on providing gerontological care. Get the experience you need to fully understand your responsibilities as a geriatric nurse.
Once you have 2,000 hours of practice in gerontological nursing and 30 hours of continuing education in the last 3 years, you can apply for certification and become a gerontological nurse specialist.
Now, if you are thinking about becoming a gerontological nurse practitioner, you’re required to undergo a gerontological NP program that includes 500 hours of faculty-supervised clinical practice as well as advanced pathophysiology and pharmacology.
Where Can You Work?
As a geriatric nurse, you actually have tons of options. You can work in any of the following healthcare settings:
- Nursing homes
- Home health
- Memory care centers
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Outpatient care clinics
- Community health centers
What Are Your Roles and Duties?
As a geriatric nurse, you’ll be caring exclusively for patients aged 65 years and older. With that, you can expect to concentrate on medical conditions that are common to the elderly. The list includes forms of dementia, musculoskeletal diseases, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
Your main duties include:
- Educating patients and relatives
- Developing nursing care plans
- Rehabilitating patients after injuries or major illnesses
- Providing hygiene care
- Administering medications
- Assisting doctors in performing procedures and exams
As a geriatric nurse, you need to act as an advocate for your patients. Remember, older patients often struggle in managing their healthcare needs. They can’t easily understand the medical terms their doctors, healthcare providers, and insurance company use. Because of that, they often have a hard time deciding what’s best for them.
In geriatric nursing, you need to make sure that your patients don’t get confused with all the information thrown at them.
To give you a clearer idea of what geriatric nurses do, watch this video:
Geriatric nurses earn between $63,776 and $81,416 (as of April 2020) per year. If you want to earn more than that, you can start looking for work opportunities in New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland as these states have a higher annual salary than others.