More than 40 million people in the United States today are age 65 and older. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by the year 2050 that number will double to 80 million people! As the population continues to age, skilled geriatric nurses are in increasing demand nationwide. Many areas of the medical field have a need for geriatric nurses, from oncology to general medicine, hospice to pain management specialists, care managers to nursing administrators. If you are presently pursuing your degree in business or nursing, you may want to consider entering the growing field of geriatric nursing after graduation.
Educational Requirements for Geriatric Nurses
There are many educational routes you can take to enter the field of geriatric medicine. In addition to skilled nursing professionals, this field needs talented business managers, nursing administrators, accounting and finance professionals and health educators. For instance, if you are currently enrolled in one of the many online masters degree in human resource management programs, your masters degree is already paving the way for you to enter the geriatric nursing field in business. If you are pursuing the medical/nursing route, you will need to take three steps. First, you need to earn your Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Next, you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam, or National Council Licensure Examination. Finally, you will need to get certified as a geriatric nurse by earning your gerontologicalnursing certification.
Geriatric Nursing Career Outlook
Even geriatric nurses who are new to the profession can look forward to earning in the high $40,000 range in their first years as a nurse. With more work experience,your salary moves upward into thehigh $50,000 range. Additional certifications or moving into management or administration can increase your salary further. The career outlook for geriatric nursing professionals as a whole is stronger than the national average. This outlook is predicted to continue to strengthen as the average lifespan continues to increase.
Important Skills for Geriatric Nurses
As a geriatric nursing professional, you will need a range of skills in addition to the industry knowledge your education provides to you. Here are key skills required for success in this field:
- Interpersonal and Communication Skills. As a geriatric nurse, you will interact regularly with family members and loved ones as well as patients. Especially as patients near the end of life, tensions can rise. You will need to develop empathy and communication skills. Your patients and their loved ones may be facing emotional challenges including difficult decisions about end-of-life care. You will need to be strong and supportive without becoming too emotionally invested.
- Time Management Skills. As a geriatric nurse, you will juggle a multitude of tasks on the patients’ behalf. Each patient you see may require different services. Some may require less or more care. You will also have to document your visits with each patient in an environment where your daily duties can change at any moment. Staying on top of patient paperwork as well as your other duties will be key to providing consistent, high-quality care.
- Organization Skills. You will rely on your own record keeping as well as the notes of colleagues to properly deliver care to each of your patients. In particular, geriatric patients often require multiple medications and some of these can interact with other medications. Having strong organizational skills can sometimes make the difference between life and death for your patients.
Hot Geriatric Nursing Careers
Some of the hottest careers in the field of geriatric nursing include the nursing case manager, the geriatric nurse and the nurse administrator.
- Nursing case manager. As a case manager, you function in a similar sense to a social worker that oversees all aspects of your patients’ care.
- Geriatric nurse. As a geriatric nurse you may work in a small clinic or hospital, assisted living facility or hospice setting. You may also have your own home-care practice.
- Nurse administrator. As a nurse administrator you work in a management capacity overseeing a team of nurses.
There is no doubt the explosion of new opportunity in the field of geriatric nursing is here to stay. With this information you can decide where you fit in this exciting new field.
About the Author: Helen Morse graduated with her human resources master’s degree two years ago. Today, she works as a geriatric nurse and hopes to become a nursing administrator.