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Geriatric Nurses: Job Description & Requirements

See what a job as a geriatric nurse entails. Explore the education and training requirements, and get career prospects to see if this job is a good fit for you.

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Career Definition for a Geriatric Nurse

The need for nursing homes, residential care facilities, and home care resources is growing exponentially, and geriatric nursing is a vital element in the care of the elderly. In addition to traditional areas of nursing expertise like nutrition, clinical care, pharmacology, and physical therapy, care for the geriatric population spans many other disciplines, including psychology, sociology, and ethics.

Required Education After qualifying as an RN, 2 years' experience as an RN; 2,000 clinical practice hours in geriatrics and passing the certification exam
Job Skills Attention to detail, patience, understanding, empathy; considerable resistance to physical and emotional stress
Mean Salary (2015)* $71,000 (all registered nurses)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 16% growth (all registered nurses)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

In response to the aging U.S. population, nursing schools are adding more geriatric content to their curricula, and graduates of RN programs are increasingly exposed to issues pertaining to care of the elderly. Nurses wishing to specialize in geriatric medicine have more options in degree programs as well as continuing education courses. Applicants for board certification as a geriatric nurse from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) should have two years of experience as an RN and 2,000 hours of clinical practice in geriatrics and must pass a certification exam.

Skills Needed

Geriatric nurses must be physically fit, able to stand and walk for extended periods, and strong enough to support the weight of patients who may be disoriented. Like most healthcare positions, a geriatric nurse job requires attention to detail, patience, understanding, empathy, and considerable resistance to physical and emotional stress. Constant care is often required by geriatric patients, so 12-hour shifts and weekend work are typical.

Economic Outlook and Career Growth

Job opportunities for RNs are predicted to grow by 16% and faster than average from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). The mean annual salary for RNs as a group in May 2015 was $71,000, with RNs in home health care at $68,510, and nursing care facilities at $63,490, according to the BLS. Nurses with at least a bachelor's degree may enjoy better prospects for advancement.

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Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Medical and Health Services Managers

Medical and health services managers fulfill a leadership role in hospitals, doctor's offices, nursing homes, and related organizations. Their responsibilities generally include overseeing finances and operations, adhering to applicable regulations, and managing departments. A medical and health services manager whose occupation is nursing home administrator must also hold a state license. This career field requires at least a bachelor's degree in health administration, although some jobs require a master's degree in public administration, business administration or a related field. The BLS reports that jobs in this field are expected to increase 17% from 2012-2024. The mean salary for medical and health services managers was $106,070 in 2015, per the BLS.

Social and Human Services Assistants

Social and human services assistants connect people who have problems to the appropriate resources or services. They may work under the supervision of a social worker or psychologist to help families arrange for food stamps or elderly clients get home care; they may also help host programs for groups, like those dealing with substance abuse or family dynamics. Employment requirements vary from a high school diploma to a certificate or associate's degree in social or behavioral sciences. Social and human services assistants usually get on-the-job training, too. Jobs in this field are expected to increase 11% from 2014-2024, according to the BLS. The BLS also reports that people in this job earned a mean salary of $33,190 in 2015.

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