Gerontological Nurse Practitioner: Education and Career Information
If you are looking for a rewarding career that provides you with an opportunity to help others and earn a fantastic salary, consider becoming a gerontological nurse practitioner. Gerontological nurse practitioners are advanced registered nurses who provide medical support to aging patients. These professionals are in-demand across the country as well as the world. They play important roles in helping people age with grace and dignity. Gerontological nurse practitioners are handsomely compensated for their hard work, enjoy plenty of upward mobility and work in a wide variety of environments.
What Gerontological Nurse Practitioners Do
Gerontological nurse practitioners provide advanced nursing care to older individuals in a variety of settings. They commonly serve as primary health care providers. These professionals evaluate and manage chronic and acute health problems that are common in senior citizens. They consult with patients, patients’ family members, nursing staff members, pharmacists, therapists and social workers. In some instances, gerontological nurse practitioners spend a significant portion of their day on their feet as they provide extensive care for elderly patients. They often move, lift and turn elderly individuals to maximize comfort. Gerontological nurse practitioners also handle long term care management challenges, prescribe physical therapy and adjust patient medication accordingly.
What sorts of challenges are involved in this work?
Gerontological nurse practitioners often care for elderly patients who are dealing with a variety of physical ailments. Gerontological nurse practitioners must stay abreast of patients’ new symptoms, how drugs interact with one another and each patients’ unique health conditions. These nurses spend a significant amount of time consulting with elderly patients who might suffer from cognitive impairment.
Gerontological nurse practitioners should be physically fit and active as they must use their strength to move elderly patients. Such patients often require extensive help in self-care activities. Some of these patients require assistance with standing, walking, bathing and so on. Furthermore, gerontological nurse practitioners sometimes work at multiple locations. Some are on call at one or several hospitals. There is a physical toll involved in such travel and long work hours. Add in the fact that gerontological nurse practitioners often have to check in on patients at regular intervals and it is easy to understand why these professionals must stay healthy and active to avoid a mental/physical health breakdown. This is certainly a demanding job that has the potential to strain the body as well as emotions.
Most gerontological nurse practitioners see a considerable percentage of their patients reach the end point of their lives. Witnessing such events over and over has the potential to incur an emotional toll on gerontological nurse practitioners. These professionals must be comfortable discussing end of life choices and issues with patients and their family members. This challenge is made even more complicated by the fact that patients, family members and gerontological nurse practitioners rarely see eye to eye on every single issue.
What kind of education and experience is required to become a gerontological nurse practitioner?
In order to become a gerontological nurse practitioner, you must become a registered nurse (RN). Though there are several different educational routes that lead to working as an RN, gerontological nurse practitioner graduate degree programs mandate that applicants have a bachelor’s degree. Many nursing programs include supervised clinical experience along with traditional classroom learning to properly prepare students for working in the field. However, plenty of graduate degree programs mandate or encourage applicants to have a minimum of one year of work experience as an RN in gerontology. This experience can be obtained in hospitals, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation clinics and nursing homes.
The typical master’s degree program takes between one and three years to complete. Those who have already completed a master’s degree in a different nursing field must pass through a post-master’s graduate certificate program specifically designed for prospective gerontology nurse practitioners. Keep in mind that gerontological nurse practitioner graduate programs are quite competitive. If your grade point average in undergraduate nursing school is not at least a 3.0, you might not be admitted.
Additional Training and Credentials
Gerontological nurse practitioners who obtain a prescription writing authority find it easier to obtain high-paying work as many employers favor those who are authorized to write prescriptions. Such authority is provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration. It requires that candidates receive nuanced training regarding prescription medications and pharmacology. Some graduate degree programs provide such training.
Most gerontological nurse practitioners have a year or two of experience in the field combined with their degree and licensure. Just about every state requires this professional to have a registered nurse (RN) licensure. This requires passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). The majority of states also require certification as well. Those who graduate from an accredited gerontology nurse practitioner master’s degree program can take certification exams for primary or acute gerontology nurse practitioners as administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
Once this exam is passed, the individual is certified to work as an Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner or as an Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. Candidates for certification must have at least 500 hours of supervised clinical experience and have earned a legitimate RN license. The certification must be kept up to date by completing a specific number of hours of education per year. Graduates can also take the certification examination of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners’ Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. This certification has to be renewed every five years through a re-examination or by meeting minimum requirements pertaining to clinical practice and continuing education.
Does education stop at a master’s degree?
No. It is possible to advance your career by earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). This is a post-master’s degree that represents the highest level of education for gerontological nurse practitioners. Obtain your DNP and you will have the opportunity to move on to administrative roles that are charged with providing oversight of healthcare delivery systems for senior citizens.
How much do gerontological nurse practitioners earn?
These professionals earn a median salary of $95,350 per year.
What skills are required to work as a gerontological nurse practitioner?
Gerontological nurse practitioners must be comfortable working in a hands-on manner with elderly patients. Gerontological nurse practitioners assess elderly patients, perform physical examinations, make diagnoses and provide treatment. Therefore, they must be patient, caring and analytical.
How can I advance my career?
One of the best ways to advance your career is to join a professional association relevant to nursing. As an example, joining the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association or the National Gerontological Nursing Association will help you explore advances within this nursing niche. These associations provide you with important access to benefits like attending regular education conferences, meet and greets, networking events, newsletters, journals and beyond.
What kinds of environments do gerontological nurse practitioners work in?
These professionals work in a wide variety of environments. Gerontological nurse practitioners work everywhere from hospitals to assisted living facilities, nursing homes, in patients’ homes and beyond. Hospitals employ gerontological nurse practitioners in acute care for elderly patient units, commonly referred to as “ACE”. Some gerontological nurse practitioners provide in-home care at patients’ homes. Other gerontological nurse practitioners work at palliative care clinics and outpatient clinics with aging individuals who do not require as extensive of care. Some gerontological nurse practitioners work in a combination of different settings while also remaining on call to provide assistance at a hospital.
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