How to Become a Geriatric Nurse: Jobs, Salary, Outlook, Job Description

Nurse holds patient handA geriatric nurse works with older adults, in a field of medicine known as gerontology. Because the number of older people is growing, and this segment is more likely to require health services, geriatric nurses are in high demand.

Table of Contents
How to Become a Geriatric Nurse
Education Requirements
Geriatric Nurse Job Description
Personality Traits
Career Options
Geriatric Nurse Certification
Professional Organizations

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not offer data specific to the field of geriatric nurses but it does provide an overview of registered nurses.

Nurse Salary and Employment Data

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Level of Education Required      Associate degree or Bachelor Degree in Nursing
Board Examinations needed    NCLEX-RN, RN-BC
Average Salary $66,220
# of Jobs (2012) 2,712,000
Job Outlook (2012 to 2022) 19% growth

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to become a Geriatric Nurse

To become a geriatric nurse, the candidate:

  • Must have an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • May pursue additional education in gerontology
  • May pursue additional certification in gerontology

Education requirements

An individual who wants to become geriatric nurses will already have graduated nursing school, have passed board examinations and already be a registered nurse. RNs interested in working as geriatric nurses may take advanced courses in gerontology and pursue certification that reflects advanced knowledge and expertise in providing care to older adults.

Job description

Geriatric nurses help those older adults who have health conditions that require care, such as medications and the use of special equipment, outside of a hospital setting. The nurses help seniors maintain a medication schedule, make dietary changes, use blood sugar monitors and walkers and perform daily exercise. Gerontology nurses design care plans and help patients understand and participate in these healthcare regimens.

A geriatric nurse has the training and expertise to understand an older patient’s acute and chronic health issues as well as assess the patient’s mental status and cognitive skills. A geriatric nurse discusses health concerns common to older patients and their families, such as incontinence, falls, changes in sleep patterns, sexual issues and more.. A geriatric nurse also educates patients and families about personal safety and disease prevention, and links patients and families with local resources as needed to improve quality of life for those families.

Personality traits:

  • Able to handle several tasks in a variety of settings
  • Structured
  • Comfortable providing direct patient care

A geriatric nurse may report to a nursing supervisor or physician.

Career options

Typical workplaces for this career

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Senior centers
  • Retirement communities
  • Patient homes

The number of older adults in the United States is growing rapidly, creating a great demand for geriatric nurses. Currently, there are about 39.6 million Americans aged 65 and older. By the year 2030, there will be about 72.1 million seniors in the United States, more than twice the number of older adults than in the year 2000. This means the number of geriatric nurses must double to meet that rising demand.

There will likely be advances in the medical technology that serves the older patient, so geriatric nurses will need extra education and expertise in using these advanced gerontology tools.

Geriatric nurses may provide care directly to patients as independent contractors, working independently or with an agency, but must adhere to the standards of nursing practice.

Certification information

Certification is not necessary to work as a geriatric nurse but certification reflects advanced education and expertise in the field of gerontology. The American Assisted Living Nurses Association administers and maintains the Assisted Living Nurse Specialty Certification exam that, upon completion, allows nurses to affix the initials C-AL after their names.

Candidates take an online exam to demonstrate knowledge of care of the older adult. Testing covers primary care considerations of older adults, major health problems in this demographic, organizational and health policies and professional issues.

Certifications are good for four years.

Professional organizations

American Assisted Living Nurses Association (AALNA):

National Gerontological Nursing Association (NGNA):

Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA):