The Promising Career of Geriatric Nurse Practitioners

Geriatric nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who take care of elderly patients. They are also called gerontic or gerontologic nurses who are considered experts and leaders in the field of geriatric nursing. This nursing specialty has grown tremendously in the last several years as patients live longer and grapple with chronic conditions. These nurses help people deal with these diseases at the twilight of their lives.

If you wish to specialize in geriatric nursing, you need to make the first step that every nurse must take — earn your nursing degree. You can opt for a one-year ADN or a four-year BSN degree. Gerontologic nursing is discussed in your medical-surgical nursing class or offered as an elective. At this level, you will learn the basics of this specialty.

Afterwards, you can choose to work in nursing homes, long-term care facilities or geriatric units in major hospitals if you intend to become a geriatric nurse.

But to become a real expert, you need to step up and enroll in a master’s in nursing program with a focus on geriatric care. Alternatively, you can choose a doctoral program with a gerontologic nurse practitioner track. Another option is to become a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) to become a clinical expert in evidence-based interventions for seniors. These nursing programs will prepare you for the widened scope and expanded role of geriatric nurse practitioners.

The typical course work includes health assessment of elder adults, advanced pharmacology and pathophysiology, the aging process, disease prevention and management, hospice and end-of-life care.

Nurse practitioner programs with geriatric nursing tracks are increasing in number because of the demand for quality care for an older population. You can sign up for one of these programs if you have the requisite years of experience working in this field.

Like most graduate level courses, you can study part-time and complete your master’s or doctoral degree at your own pace while still adding to your work experience. Online programs are available for your convenience that would not disrupt your work and family obligations.

You can ensure better patient outcomes, get your skills validated and solidify your career prospects by getting certified. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers two certifications: Gerontologic Nurse Practitioner – Board Certified (GNP-BC) and the Clinical Nurse Specialist in Gerontology – Board Certified (GCNS-BC).

A nurse is eligible to take the computer-based examination if he or she holds an active and valid RN license and a master’s or doctorate degree from an accredited geriatric nursing practitioner program. Certifications are renewable every five years.

Gerontologic nurses usually seek further knowledge and support by joining the American Nurses Association, American College of Nurse Practitioners, Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association, and the National Gerontological Nursing Association.

Being advanced practice nurses, GNPs receive one of the highest salaries among nurses. Those with certifications and years of specialty experience can earn nearly $100,000 on average. They also get a relatively generous benefits and retirement package.

All patient populations will continue to grow in the next decade. But the fastest group to increase will be the elderly. If you are eyeing a nursing specialty with sure growth and great opportunities career-wise, then look no further than gerontologic nursing. As people live longer, there will be booming demand for geriatric nurse practitioners.

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