Long-term care nurses are registered nurses who work in nursing homes and other facilities that require continuous care for long durations. They must be licensed and hold at least a nursing diploma, but most earn associate's or bachelor's degrees in nursing. Advanced degrees specializing in gerontology are available in the rapidly-growing field of nursing.
Long-term care nurses work with patients who are suffering from chronic or recurring physical and mental issues. Like all registered nurses, candidates must either earn a degree or diploma from an approved nursing program and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain licensure as a registered nurse. Due to the nature of the work, long-term care nurses should be comfortable working with the elderly and extremely ill and should demonstrate an exceptional bedside manner.
|Required Education||Diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in nursing|
|Other Requirements||Registered Nurse license|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||16% (for all registered nurses)*|
|Average Salary (2015)||$71,000 (for registered nurses)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Career Overview for a Long-Term Care Nurse
Long-term care nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who typically work in nursing homes and other assisted living facilities. They provide health care and basic living care for elderly residents and others with steady physical or mental conditions. Often, long-term care nurses assist residents with medical treatments, moving them amongst locations and providing care during other daily and community activities. Long-term care nurses are described as such due to the length of time required to care for patients with special needs over time.
Occupation and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that employment opportunities for registered nurses are projected to increase by 16% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). This is due to an aging population and an increased demand for healthcare in general. The BLS also reports that average annual salary for RNs was $71,000 as of May 2015, with most RNs earning between $46,360 and $101,630 per year.
In order to become a long-term care nurse, students must earn a diploma in nursing, Associate Degree in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). While diploma programs are limited in number and administered by hospitals and healthcare facilities, ASN and BSN programs are offered by numerous postsecondary institutions. Although the BLS notes that graduates of these programs are qualified to become RNs, those who hold a BSN generally have the best opportunities to advance. Diploma programs generally take three years to complete, while ADN programs typically last 2-3 years and BSN programs are four years in duration.
ADN and BSN programs combine hands-on clinical experience with classroom education. Coursework generally includes physiology, health assessment and anatomy. Most nursing degree programs do not have a specialized long-term care education track; however, students may take specific courses within the program that pertain to long-term care, such as gerontology.
RN Licensing Requirements
After successfully completing their nursing program, students will be eligible for licensure. All states require that their nurses be licensed before they can begin legally providing care as a nurse. Obtaining a license requires all candidates to pass the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Individual states may have additional licensure requirements.
Advanced Degree Options
Long-term care nurses may also complete advanced degree programs in gerontology, which may prepare them to become advanced practice nurses. Students may take classes that explore topics like aging of the brain, developmental psychology and health behavior. Programs may also require students to complete a nurse practicum, with a set number of service hours.
Career options for a nurse looking to specialize in long-term care are plentiful. You'll need a degree or diploma in nursing, and you must pass a licensing exam. Advanced degrees in gerontology can teach a nurse more about aging and healthcare.