Geriatric nurse leans over an elderly male patient in a hospital bed

Choosing to become a nurse is done out of a deep desire to help people. Nurses strive to deliver safe, quality care honestly and ethically. Americans recognize this, too, as nurses have consistently topped the list of most trusted professions for 16 consecutive years, according to Gallup.

Gerontological nursing, more commonly referred to as geriatric nursing, is a specialty that allows registered nurses (RNs) to care for and get to know elderly patients. Nurses play a primary role in helping these patients maintain their independence and enjoy life during their “golden years”.

From an occupational perspective, RNs specializing in gerontology are in high demand. The World Health Organization has predicted that between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years will nearly double, from 12 to 22 percent, respectively. By 2020, that age group will outnumber children younger than 5 years.

The following sections explore specialty of gerontological nursing and offer more details on pursuing this field of nursing.

Geriatric Nurse Job Responsibilities

Geriatric nurses care for elderly patients who have a higher risk of developing chronic health conditions and diseases like osteoporosis, arthritis, congestive heart failure, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and diabetes. Helping patients cope with and prevent those types of issues is a primary role for geriatric nurses, who work in facilities like hospitals, hospices and nursing homes and with home healthcare service providers.

Responsibilities often include the following:

•  Developing and monitoring treatment plans

•  Administering medications

•  Helping with rehabilitation following injuries

•  Conducting routine physical and mental exams

•  Providing advice for disease prevention and personal safety

•  Watching for signs of elder abuse

•  Helping patients with daily needs, such as dressing, bathing and using the bathroom

Geriatric nurses work alongside patients’ physicians to coordinate care by serving as a liaison between patients, family members and physicians. Nurses are responsible for the physical, mental and emotional well-being of their patients.

Geriatric Nurse Salary and Career Outlook

Geriatric nurses are required to be RNs. The median annual wage for RNs is $70,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The highest 10 percent earn more than $104,100 and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $48,690.

The salary for nurses can vary depending upon the sector in which they work. The median salaries for the top sectors within healthcare industry are:

•  Government: $75,900

•  Hospitals: $70,590

•  Home healthcare services: $64,140

•  Offices of physicians: $61,730

•  Nursing and residential care facilities: $60,950

Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 15 percent by 2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS noted that the aging population is a primary reason for this growth. “Demand for healthcare services will increase because of the aging population, given that older people typically have more medical problems than younger people,” the organization said. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that adults age 65 and over comprised 15.9 percent of all emergency department visits in 2012-13. In addition to injury and illness, the BLS added that nurses are needed to educate and care for patients with chronic conditions like arthritis, dementia, diabetes and obesity.

Although the outlook for most registered nurses will benefit from this trend, geriatric nurses will be specifically impacted.

How to Become a Geriatric Nurse

The typical educational requirement needed to become a geriatric nurse is a bachelor’s degree.

Registered nurses with a diploma from a nursing school or an associate degree may be able to pursue positions as a geriatric nurse, but a bachelor’s degree is often required for this specialty. A bachelor’s degree is also the new educational standard for healthcare employers across the country. That is especially the case at hospitals, where many organizations require all new nurse hires to have at least a bachelor’s degree. The trend began in response to the Institute of Medicine’s 2010 report calling for 80 percent of practicing nurses to hold at least a bachelor’s degree by 2020.

If you’d like to become a geriatric nurse, earning your RN to BSN online can help you accomplish your career goals in a flexible environment. The degree can also allow you to pursue other specialties and leaderships positions like nurse case manager. Husson University’s program is designed to provide you with an evidence-based education that allows you to deliver the best patient-centric care possible.