Long Term Care Nurse: Job Description and Career Information
Find out more about long term care nurses - see what they do and the required education and training for employment. Get information about job prospects and earning potential to decide if this is the right career for you.
Long term care nurses tend to the physical and emotional needs of the chronically incapacitated, the elderly, and patients recovering from critical injury or extensive surgery, helping them to develop their independence and minimize the impact of their disability. They work primarily in rehabilitation clinics or facilities offering special needs or skilled nursing care, but a growing segment of long term care nursing is engaged in home care, conducted in the comfort of the patients' residences.
Become a Long Term Care Nurse
Nurses have the option to concentrate on long term care subject areas, such as diet, physical therapy, gerontology, pharmacology, and psychology while pursuing an Associate of Science in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or they can supplement existing degrees with continuing education in these areas. In order to practice, a long term care nurse should become licensed as an RN and have 2,000 hours of clinical practice in a related field.
Long term care nursing is a multi-disciplinary field, and in addition to traditional nursing fields, practitioners need exposure to other disciplines, like psychology, sociology, and ethics. Working with the chronically disabled is taxing physically and emotionally, and a long term care nurse must be physically fit, resilient, sensitive, and empathetic. Shift workers may be asked to work 12 consecutive hours, at night or on weekends.
Economic Outlook and Career Growth
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), job opportunities for RNs should increase at a faster-than-average rate of 19% from 2012-2022. Mean annual salaries in May 2012 were $67,930 for RNs as a whole, $65,530 for RNs in home health care, and $61,220 for RNs employed in nursing care facilities, according to the BLS.
Alternate Career Options
Licensed Practical Nurse
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) - also known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) - take care of medical tasks like checking vital signs, administering catheters, and in some states, as permitted, giving prescribed medicines. LPNs may also help with day-to-day tasks like washing or dressing, or teaching family members how to provide daily care to the patient. State regulations that dictate what LPNs are allowed to do vary. LVNs usually complete 1-year certificate programs and then sit for the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-PN, which is required by every state. According to the BLS, the number of jobs for licensed practical nurses is predicted to grow 25% from 2012-2022; the agency also reports that LPNs earned median pay of $41,540 in 2012.
Medical and Health Services Manager
A medical and health services manager oversees the operation and performance of a medical or health care-related facility, such as a long term care residence. Their focus is on areas like efficiency, finance, and regulatory compliance. Those who work as nursing home administrators are required to have a state license. Medical and health services managers usually have at least a bachelor's degree in health administration or a related field, although pursuit of a master's degree is common. Work experience is also usually highly valued by prospective employers. The BLS expects that jobs for medical and health services managers will increase 23% from 2012-2022. This occupation paid a median salary of $88,580 in 2012.
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