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Geriatric Nurse: Education and Career Information

Are you interested in the nursing profession, but have a soft spot for working with elderly patients? The elderly population needs special attention and care, and it takes a special person to understand these challenges and accept the task of helping them in their transition. If this type of work sounds interesting, you may want to consider becoming a geriatric nurse.

What does a geriatric nurse do?

A geriatric nurse specializes in treating elderly patients who are at risk of injuries and diseases that occur at a later age in life. They primarily focus on preventative care, and work as a liaison in assisting families with understanding how to deal with these medical conditions. Geriatric nurses have a lot of the same duties as general nurses, but the demand is greater as illnesses and situations are constant. Geriatric nurses monitor vital signs, administer medications, transports patients to appointments, assist with daily needs, operate as health care advocates, coordinate on care plans, identify and treat common symptoms, and act as an in-house support system. Geriatric nurses are usually found in nursing homes, working with a home healthcare service, and in a hospice facility.

How much does a geriatric nurse earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, geriatric nurses make between $40,000 and $83,000 annually. For nursing care facilities, the salary is about $52,000, and when working in a home health care services agency, they make about $54,000. There are a number of factors that determine the annual salary of a geriatric nurse, including location, what type of facility, level of education, cost of living, and years of experience.

The salary of a geriatric nurse will exponentially increase after the first four years of service. There are additional ways to make a significantly higher income, which includes working at a hospital, private residence or research facility.

What skills are needed to become a geriatric nurse?

Due to the level of care that must be provided for elderly patients, there are certain skills needed in a geriatric nursing position that exceed that of a general care nurse. Some basic skills needed are:

Organization: When working with elderly patients, being organized is key. A geriatric nurse must be able to coordinate and keep track of patient records, medications, appointments, family contact information, illnesses, vital signs and a host of other things to make sure the patient has the best care.

Stress Management: When working with elderly patients, it can be stressful. There are a lot of things to remember; you may see them going through a rough time and you must be able to handle a number of stressful situations.

Compassion: Being kind and compassionate are some of the main qualities that define an excellent nurse. A geriatric nurse should be able to be non-judgmental, patient and understanding of situations that may be going on around them. They must be able to feel the pain of the family and patient and work to provide the most comfort they can.

Communication: Being able to interact with the patient, family and other healthcare professionals both verbally and in writing is an essential part of being a nurse. The nurse must also be able to practice active listening skills to work with their patients.

Patience: There will be situations when dealing with geriatric patients that are time-consuming and draining. Being able to exercise patience in the midst of the chaos is a key component of delivering good service.

Attention to Detail: When working with geriatric patients, everything must be observed, from head to toe. There are so many things that could go wrong at one time, and a geriatric nurse must understand and be alert to any indications that the patient is in pain or going through some kind of crisis.

Monitoring: A geriatric nurse must be able to carefully monitor the patient to alert other healthcare professionals of any potential issues or ongoing occurrences that may cause concern.

Physical Endurance: A geriatric nurse may be required to lift the patient, wheel them around in a wheelchair and perform other strenuous duties. They should be in good physical condition to handle these tasks.

Decision Making Skills: Knowing when to alert the healthcare practitioner or someone else when there is cause for concern is key. The nurse must also be able to make simple decisions that could give the patient more comfort and relaxed.

Internship requirements

Every nursing program has clinical practice in order for students to receive their degree. The number of hours required depend on the particular school and specialization.

Educational requirements

In order to become a geriatric nurse, there are a few educational requirement that must be met. Geriatric nurses are also general care nurses, so they follow the same training as that of general nursing. The first step is enrolling in an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program. Coursework to be completed in these areas are medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, ethics and patient care. Once the degree program has been completed, nurses sit for the National Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam to become designated an RN. Some states also require additional examinations to qualify for licensure.

Geriatric nurses can tailor their studies in the last year of their program to focus on coursework and internships that are tailored toward geriatric care. Many geriatric nurses go on to complete a master’s degree in geriatric nursing, which is an additional two years. An advanced certification from the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center (ANCC) is also available to nurses who wish to become experts in the field.

Many nurses also receive a graduate certificate in geriatric nursing, or go on to get their Ph.D. in geriatric nursing. This degree is designed for those nurses who wish to become researchers and trendsetters in the field.

This field is continuously growing and is projected to increase in job growth by 19% through 2022. If you want to make a difference in the lives of elderly patients, this may be the career path for you!

Nursing Scholarships

American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) American Cancer Society Doctoral Degree Scholarships in Cancer Nursing Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship
The Gates Millenium Scholars (GMS) National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) Nurse Corps Scholarship (NCS) Nurses of Tomorrow
Nursing Economics Foundation Tylenol Future Care Scholarship American Holistic Nurses Association
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Quick Fact
In 2018, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
median earnings per week than workers with only a high school diploma.*
*Bureau of Labor Statistics

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