What Does a Long-Term Care Nurse Do?
A long-term care nurse is specially trained to provide nursing care for patients of any age who have a chronic illness or disability and need long-term medical care. While the vast majority of long-term care patients are elderly, some are younger and have developmental disabilities or other physical and mental disabilities. A patient often moves into a long-term care facility when a stint in the hospital is not enough to rehabilitate them. A good many long-term care nurses work in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but some work in home health care. Some long-term care nurses also assist patients with activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing and using the bathroom, but their primary focus is on caring for their health. They vigilantly monitor patients’ health and are on-call to respond if a patient’s health declines suddenly. Long-term care nurses also administer patients’ medications on schedule, and educate patients and their families on the ramifications of long-term medical conditions.
How Can I Become a Long-Term Care Nurse?
The first step toward becoming a long-term care nurse is to complete an approved nursing education program. The most common way of doing this is to earn a degree in nursing. Most nurses have earned 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 through hospitals. During your nursing education, it is helpful to take elective courses in long-term care nursing or to specialize in gerontology, as most long-term care patients are elderly. After completing a nursing 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 accumulating significant clinical experience working with long-term care patients, you can proceed to become certified as a long-term care nurse through the American Association of Long Term Care Nursing.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Long-Term Care Nurse?
The career outlook for nurses overall is excellent, and those who specialize in an area of health care that deals primarily with the elderly are particularly in demand. You can expect even more job openings in this field of nursing over the next 15-20 years as the baby boomer generation ages, placing a greater demand on long-term care facilities. The overall employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, nursing jobs in nursing care facilities are expected to grow by 25 percent, the Bureau maintains. The average annual salary for a long-term care nurse is $52,000, according to SimplyHired.com, a site that calculates average salaries based on what is listed in the job postings it receives. The average annual salary for a nurse working in a nursing care facility was $57,060 in May 2008, according to the Bureau. A number of factors can affect your salary as a long-term care nurse, including how many years of experience you have, what certifications you have, what region of the U.S. you live in, and whether you are working in a metropolitan or rural area.