What Does a Geriatric Nurse Do?
Geriatric nurses are specially trained to work with elderly patients. They have experience meeting the health care needs of older adults, who are at greater risk of injuries and diseases such as osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Geriatric nurses focus on preventing and treating diseases and disabilities in the elderly, and educate older adults and their families on how to cope with certain medical conditions that develop later in life. They help rehabilitate patients after injuries, and perform routine screenings, such as mammograms. Many times you can find geriatric nurses working in nursing homes, home health care services and in hospice facilities caring for bedridden patients, those with impaired mental faculties, and those experiencing severe pain. They develop a plan of care for these patients, ensure patients receive their medications on schedule, assist patients in pain management, as well as turn and bathe patients to improve circulation and prevent bedsores. A good geriatric nurse always treats their elderly patients with dignity and respect.
How Can I Become a Geriatric Nurse?
The first step toward becoming a geriatric nurse is to complete an approved nursing education program. The most common way of doing this is to earn a degree in nursing. Most people earn either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university. Less common is earning a nursing diploma, a program typically offered by hospitals. After completing the program, all future nurses go on to take an exam called the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) so they can become licensed to practice nursing in their state. After gaining two years of experience as an RN, accumulating at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice in geriatric nursing, and completing at least 30 hours of continuing education in geriatric nursing, RNs can go on to earn a valuable credential called the Gerontological Nursing Certification offered through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Geriatric Nurse?
The career outlook for geriatric nurses is exceedingly good. Not only do U.S. Census Bureau predictions anticipate a huge increase in the elderly population due to the first wave of the baby boomers hitting retirement age, but the elderly are more likely than younger people to need nursing care, which creates a greater demand for nurses with the skills to treat older age groups. The average annual salary for all nurses, geriatric or otherwise, was $62,450 in May 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The salary for geriatric nurses in particular is more difficult to pin down. According to Salary.com, the average annual salary for a geriatric staff nurse was $57,648, according to November 2009 data. It helps to consider the locations a geriatric nurse is most likely to work when considering what salary you will bring in as a geriatric nurse. Registered nurses working in nursing homes earned $57,060 on average and those working in home health care services earned $58,740 on average, according to the Bureau.