What is a Geriatric Nurse?

Geriatric nurses are registered nurses specializing in the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of elderly individuals.

These medical professionals work alongside doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers to ensure adequate patient care at all levels.

As a result, elderly individuals lead healthier, more thoughtful, and more fulfilling lives.

Geriatric nurses are aware of normal changes due to old age and address these issues effectively.

Moreover, their training allows them to distinguish normal and unnatural symptoms and health issues in older patients.

It’s essential to determine a patient’s well-being and predict potential medical concerns that must be evaluated.

They also provide social support to patients and record their condition to provide proper assessments and planning related to their care and well-being.

Geriatric nurses work in various settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, senior centers, retirement communities, and even in the patient’s home.

In some cases, elderly patients require a lot of medical assistance.

As a result, geriatric nurses work with a healthcare team specializing in care for elderly individuals.

These members include dermatologists, cardiologists, rehabilitation experts, ophthalmologists, and geriatric mental health workers.

What Do Geriatric Nurses Do?

Although most registered nurses provide care to older people, geriatric nurses develop numerous skills focused on elderly care.

It allows them to understand patient care practices better, communicate more effectively and develop and implement treatment plans.

Daily Responsibilities:

  • Assist patients with ROM exercises
  • Monitor and assess patient vitals
  • Perform physical exams
  • Administer medication
  • Manage cognitive health
  • Consoul patients and families
  • Help with bathing, clothing, and feeding
  • Develop and implement treatment plans
  • Provide a healthy social environment

These specialists educate the elderly about the importance of maintaining good health, eating the right foods, getting proper rest, avoiding injuries, and what to do should they encounter an injury.

They also counsel family members providing care to elderly individuals dealing with acute and chronic conditions.

As a result, geriatric nurses must have extremely good interpersonal communication skills.

As patients age, some have difficulty managing basic everyday functions.

It includes completing tasks such as preparing food, taking medications, going to the bathroom, and other ailments associated with old age.

They also have more difficulties fighting off infections and diseases as their body no longer regenerates the way they used to.

Therefore, geriatric nurses often assist with managing these daily tasks.

Finally, nurses must be aware of abnormal psychological behavior and physiological changes among elderly patients.

It allows them to diagnose better and treat symptoms should they occur.

Because of this, geriatric nurses focus on helping the elderly cope with mental/psychological, and physical changes in their abilities.

However, the care these nurses provide depends on the patient’s capacity to care for themselves.

Not all patients or facilities require high levels of care, and some patients can perform many of their daily tasks with limited assistance.

Conditions Geriatric Nurses Encounter:

Geriatric nurses are trained to respond to, manage and treat common ailments elderly patients suffer from, such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Dizziness
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Pressure injuries, are often caused by stoppages in blood flow
  • Respiratory issues
  • Strokes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Dementia
  • Delirium
  • Depression

Not all patients deal with these conditions, and not all facilities provide the same types of patients for these healthcare professionals to assist.

As a result, the elderly group geriatric nurses work with varies from one location to the next.

To illustrate, patients at a rehabilitation facility have needs different than retirement communities or community health centers.

Even though there is overlap in medical care, individuals in rehabilitation require more assistance than retirement communities.

Where Do Geriatric Nurses Work?

Within the field of geriatrics, there are numerous environments geriatric nurses work in.

This includes hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehabilitation centers, community health centers, health reform, clinical settings, and more.

That said, depending on the setting, geriatric nurses provide different levels of elderly care.

For example, hospital settings allow geriatric nurses to assist elderly individuals needing immediate medical care.

As a result, they utilize hospital equipment, medications, and medical teams to provide high-level care in severe cases.

Alternatively, nurses working inassisted living provide personal care, advice, and companionship to their clients.

They also help manage medications, assist with exercises, provide memory care and pain management, and help with various daily living needs.

Work Settings for Geriatric Nurses:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Classrooms/clinical sites
  • Nursing homes
  • Longterm care facilities
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Outpatient ambulatory care clinics
  • Community healthcare centers
  • Healthcare reform institutions
  • Retirement communities

Not all geriatric nurses work directly with the elderly. Some nurses work behind the lines on healthcare reform to improve the healthcare system and the lives of those it serves.

Geriatric nurses also work in management and education roles, overseeing other nurses and educating students in the profession.

Are Geriatric Nurses in Demand?

Yes, geriatric nurses are in demand. The need for geriatric nurses will continue to grow as the population ages.

To accommodate a growing population, geriatric nurses in healthcare reform and educational institutes look for ways to improve patient care and bring education to healthcare workers.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in every five residents will be of retirement age.

As a result, the need for trained and educated nurses in geriatric care is growing.

Unfortunately, there is a shortage of prepared geriatricians able to assist those in need.

This also includes nurses, social workers, and public health professionals.

Many care-related tasks fall on other healthcare providers without an adequate number of geriatric nurses.

This further stresses the care for all individuals and the medical staff involved.

Increasing the number of geriatric nurses can provide adequate, timely care to the elderly population.

We can also ensure nurses and other healthcare specialists can focus on providing care to their patients.

How to Become a Geriatric Nurse

Those looking to start a career as a geriatric nurse must first become certified as registered nurses.

Due to the educational requirements and medical experience needed to aid elderly patients properly, most places that hire geriatric nurses are looking for nurses with at least a bachelor’s degree and two years of experience in the chosen nursing field.

As a result, you’ll want to gain bedside experience and gear your work toward skills needed in this profession.

In addition to gaining nursing experience, it is also important to take continuing education courses in geriatrics and get certified in programs related to geriatric nursing.

Those who pursue education and training can obtain their gerontological nursing certification through the ANCC.

Steps to Become a Geriatric Nurse

  1. Become a registered nurse
  2. Gain bedside experience
  3. Focus on continuing education courses and training in geriatrics
  4. Obtain your gerontological nurse certification

Beyond that, there are higher education programs/degrees for those that want to further their career and specialize in this profession.

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

Nurses that are genuinely patient about geriatric care may want to consider getting a master’s degree.

It will allow them to become an adult-gerontology nurse specialist.

Nurse practitioners or advanced practice registered nurses are specially trained to provide high-level care to elderly patients with various healthcare problems.

It includes managing patients’ conditions, such as diabetes and palliative care.

Furthermore, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners can work as primary care providers and prescribe medications to their patients.

With that said, those interested in pursuing this degree should have at least two years of experience as an RN with at least 2000 hours of practice in the gerontology field and a minimum of 30 hours of continued education in your geriatric field.

The best way to find out precisely what hospitals and healthcare facilities are looking for is to consult your local college or university that offers certification programs in the nursing field.

You can also contact your local hospital and ask what training is most important for becoming a geriatric nurse.

Final Considerations

For those interested in learning more about geriatric nursing, listen to MelissaBPhD’s podcast.

She presents tons of valuable information for aspiring nurses to empower them to provide optimal care to older individuals.

Moreover, her website offers numerous videos that further add depth and knowledge to the topic of geriatric nursing.