Geriatric nurses (or gerontological nurses) take care of the elderly. These patients are at a greater risk for several conditions such as cancer and osteoporosis, which means these nurses try to focus on preventive care.
According to The American Geriatrics Society, one of the primary roles of a geriatric nurse is to help senior citizens maintain a high degree of independent living. They also spend much of their time identifying and treating common problems in areas such as cardiovascular, neurological, and psychosocial. Other duties include:
- Measuring and recording weight and vital signs
- Helping with pain management
- Watching for signs of elder abuse
- Explaining a patient’s medication(s)
- Talking to patients about a change in sleep patterns, how to prevent a fall, and incontinence
- Performing certain medical tests either in a patient’s home or in a medical office
- Teaching a patient’s family how to care for their ailing loved one
Geriatric nurses work in several settings:
- Nursing homes
- Patients’ homes
- Rehabilitation centers
- Senior centers
In hospitals, these nurses tend to work in the areas of cardiology, dermatology, geriatric mental health, rehabilitation, and outpatient surgery. Those that work in rehabilitation and long-term care facilities manage patient care from development through implementation, help patients regain mobility, and sometimes they take on administrative or training roles.
You only need to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing to work in this field. Courses include anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and patient care and ethics.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing requires all nurses working in the United states to be licensed. Once you complete your degree, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) in order to legally perform nursing duties.
To earn a certificate in geriatric nursing, you need to take the Gerontological Nursing Certification Examination administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Before you sit for the exam, you must meet the following criteria:
- Hold an active and current RN license
- Have worked full-time as a geriatric nurse for two years
- Have completed a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in gerontological nursing within the last three years
- Have completed at least 30 hours of continuing education in gerontological nursing within the last three years
The exam has 175 multiple choice questions, but you will only be scored on 150 of them. Questions may include health issues regarding geriatric patients, normal aging challenges, and life style changes. Here’s a sample of what you could see on the test:
1. What is a symptom of age related macular degeneration?
2. An effective way to adequately provide nourishment to dementia patients is?
3. The American Nurses Association’s Gerontological Nursing Scope of Practice emphasizes?
4. For older adults who are taking neuroleptic medication, what can develop?
5. Which ethical principle underlies nursing actions respecting each patient’s value and beliefs?
Certification is good for three years.
No matter which field of nursing you choose, you should always have patience and be upbeat and cheerful. But this is especially true when working in geriatrics because the aging process is usually hard on a person. Some take their failing health or lack of independence in stride, while others become angry or depressed.
Outlook and Salary
There are roughly 78 million people in the United States that make up the elderly population. This means the need for geriatric nurses is on the rise. The AACN states that in nursing care facilities and hospitals, nurses can expect to see an increase in employment 20 and 22 percent, respectively.
When it comes to salary, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average salary for all Registered Nurses was $68,910 in 2013. Your salary will depend on your education, location, and employer.
If you would like to learn more about this career, contact us at Nursing Examiner.