What is a Geriatric Nurse?

A desire to help older patients may lead you to look into the possibility of becoming a geriatric nurse. Geriatric nursing, also called gerontological nursing, gives you the opportunity to work specifically with patients who are elderly and facing health issues that are more likely to affect older people. Since elderly people can be diagnosed with a number of chronic and long-term illnesses, nurses who work with them may also spend a lot of time with families, care-givers, and social and medical services that focus on elderly patients.

Education and Certification in Geriatric Nursing

It’s possible to work as a geriatric specialist at various levels. If you are a licensed practical nurse (LPN) it’s quite probable that you will find employment opportunities with elderly patients in a nursing home, since 37% of all LPNs work in that setting. If you are a registered nurse, you can go on for specific certification in geriatric nursing, according to the American Nurses Credentialing Center. In order to be eligible for that certification, you will need to be an RN for at least two years, have at least 2,000 hours of clinical experience in geriatrics, and have a minimum of 30 hours of relevant continuing education. Once you have completed all of those things, you can be credentialed and your title will be RN-BC.

Geriatric nursing possibilities do not stop there. If you decide to become an advanced practice nurse, then you can take geriatric focused classes during your masters level coursework. Once you have graduated, you can work toward certification as a gerontological nurse practitioner.

Duties and Settings

There are many places where you can use your skills in geriatrics to help elderly patients. Nursing homes probably come to mind first, but geriatric nurses are also needed to help patients in hospitals, clinics, home health service organizations, and assisted living organizations. While there are a variety of diseases and health issues that can come about as patients age, some of the more prominent ones include dementia related illnesses or bone and joint related problems such as osteoporosis or arthritis. However, there are plenty of other illnesses that can affect older patients, including heart ailments, cancers, diabetes, or respiratory problems. Older patients may also sometimes have problems due to falling down. Whatever problems they face, they can be helped by nurses who help them and their care-givers learn to manage their particular illnesses, take their medications regularly, deal effectively with pain, and make needed appointments with their doctors. These kinds of duties, whether carried out in a doctor’s office, a home, or a hospital, can make a tremendous difference in the life of an elderly person dealing with a chronic illness.

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In geriatrics, the focus of your work may change depending on your level of experience and your specific role. Sometimes you will serve patients directly, and other times you might be involved in counseling families and helping patients set up long term care plans for something chronic. If you are interested in an administrative role, you might end up supervising a nursing staff in an nursing home. If any of these roles sound right for you, then it can be well worth your time to become a geriatric nurse.