Nurse Specialties: Geriatric Nursing

Geriatric nursing, commonly called ‘gerontological nursing’, is a sub-specialty for registered nurses with a desire to work in a stable career while assisting aging patients. Professionals in this field regularly manage and treat age-related diseases, mental health conditions, and help with end-of-life care. As a specialty career for RNs, gerontology requires a degree from a nursing school, clinical experience, and on-going career training. Geriatric nursing is an in-demand profession, as the population ages and the overall demand for nurses continues to rise.

What is Geriatric Nursing?

Geriatric (gerontological) nurses care for aging patients who may be facing a variety of age-related disease and are at risk for other illnesses. Older patients are unique among other people under a nurse’s care because they may require assistance outside of the normal duties of a registered nurse. In addition to potentially life-threatening illnesses and difficulty fighting off common ailments such as the flu, geriatric patients must be closely monitored for a number of complications. This specialty often involves caring for patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, and more. These conditions put the patient at risk for accidents, infections, and other side effects such as those association with depression. Preventative care is the focal point in geriatric nursing, so close monitoring and rapid intervention is necessary in all aspects of care-giving

Nursing School Curriculum for Geriatric Nursing

Geriatric nursing is a specialty career and therefore requires at least an RN-level associate degree, bachelor degree, or certification. Unlike some other specialty nursing careers, this specialty requires advanced training and experience in gerontology before the special certification may be obtained. Additionally, master’s degrees, doctorates, and advanced certifications are available for professionals interested in advanced careers in gerontological nursing.

As minimum in most areas, becoming a geriatric nurse requires a nursing student to:

  • Complete a registered nurse program at a nursing school
  • Successful completion of the RN licensing exam
  • At least two years of clinical experience as an RN
  • Clinical experience must involved at least 2,000 hours of geriatric-related work
  • At least thirty hours of continued education training.

Continuing education (CE) is an integral part of every nurse’s career as a professional. After graduation from a nursing school, RNs and specialty nurses are expected to continue their training and spend a minimum number of hours in approved classes. Failure to do so during a license period can result in revocation of a nurse’s license and the inability to practice nursing.

Several organizations in the United States offer continuing education courses or guidance for geriatric nurses. These include the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA) and the National Gerontological Nursing Association (NGNA).

Careers for Nursing School Graduates with Geriatric Nursing Specialty

Many geriatric nurses work in private residences, in retirement communities, and in assisted living facilities, but are needed in abundance throughout the health system. Nurse professionals with an advanced degree or certification in gerontological nursing are also eligible for positions in educational institutions and supervisory roles. Geriatric nurses are always in high-demand, especially in nursing homes and assisted care facilities. As with all other nurse specialties, this career genre is expected to experience continued growth into the future, making it possible for students and professionals to secure a career in geriatric nursing.

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