Geriatric Nursing


Geriatric nursing was made official in 1961 when the American Nurses Association recommended a specialty group for geriatric nurses.  The first standards of practice were established in 1970, the first certification examination in 1973 and the first conference for national geriatric nursing was held in 1979.  Once this specialty was made official, it progressed very rapidly into what you see today.

This type of nurse focuses on working with adults who are 65 years of age and older.  As of right now, only one percent of nurses have an active geriatric nurse certification.



Geriatric Nurse Salary

The median annual geriatric nurse salary is $61,453 per year.  The lowest 10 percent earn an average of $50,636 per year and the highest 10 percent earn an average of $78,611 per year.

Geriatric nurse salaries will depend on many different factors.  Place of employment, geographic location, geriatric nursing certification, level of experience and how much education you have are all figured in when determining your salary.  Certifications can help in improving job opportunities and they help to increase your marketability.


Geriatric Nurse Job Description

Geriatric nurses work exclusively with those who are ages 65 and older.  This can be done in a large variety of settings, such as home healthcare, major hospitals, clinics and outpatient facilities and nursing homes.  Some geriatric nurses also work at hospice centers even though not all patients on hospice are 65 years of age and older.

You will concentrate on many different medical conditions that are common in older adults, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia, cardiovascular disease, various types of cancer, musculoskeletal diseases and injuries.  You will work with patients and their families to help your patients to maintain as much independence and quality of life as possible.  The following are tasks that are commonly performed by geriatric nurses:

  • Patient rehabilitation after an injury or major illness
  • Routine screenings and check-ups
  • Developing comprehensive nursing care plans
  • Medication and treatment administration
  • Pain management
  • Hygiene care and bedsore prevention
  • Preventative health tasks
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Documentation
  • Patient education and patient advocacy


Geriatric Nurse Education

To get started in a career as a geriatric nurse you will need to first pursue your education as a registered nurse.  You can spend two years in school getting your associate degree or three to four years pursuing your bachelor’s degree.  Keep in mind that while both will allow you to sit for your National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, some hospitals may require that you have a bachelor’s degree.

Nursing degrees require a combination of both classroom learning and clinical experience.  How much clinical experience you need will depend on both the state you are going to school in and the school you are attending.  The following are classes that are commonly taken with an undergraduate nursing degree:

  • Pediatric nursing
  • Nutrition
  • Medical surgical nursing
  • Geriatric nursing
  • Pathophysiology
  • Obstetrical nursing
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatric nursing
  • Microbiology
  • Acute care nursing
  • Anatomy and physiology


Geriatric Nurse Certification and Licensing

The first step in becoming a geriatric nurse is successfully passing your National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.  Once you have your license you can start to seek a career in geriatric nursing and pursue related certification.  There is a registered nurse – board certified in gerontological nursing.  This certification is granted by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

This certification is awarded after passing an examination that consists of 175 questions.  You will be given three and a half hours to complete the exam.  To sit for the examination you must meet the following requirements:

  • Have an active registered nursing license
  • Pay all applicable fees
  • Have two full years of experience as a practicing registered nurse
  • In the last three years, you have worked in geriatric nursing for at least 2,000 hours
  • In the last three years, you have completed 30 hours of geriatrics-related continuing education

This certificate is good for five years and you must recertify before it expires.  Ideally, you should begin the recertification process at least two months in advance.  This will allow adequate time to get your paperwork together and have it reviewed by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.  To renew your certification you must meet the following requirements:

  • Pay all applicable fees
  • Meet all continuing education requirements and present proof of these (most of these will be related to geriatrics and at least one related to pharmacology)
  • Have an active, unrestricted registered nursing license
  • In the last five years, you must have worked at least 1,000 hours in the geriatrics specialty


Geriatric Nurse Job Outlook

The projected need for geriatric nurses is expected to increase by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018.  With such a small number of nurses choosing to specialize in geriatrics, this number could very well grow over the next five to 10 years.

In the United States, the population is aging rapidly because people are living longer and the baby boomer population is nearing retirement age.  In the next 25 years, it is estimated that approximately 72 million Americans will be at least 65 years of age.  By the year 2030, 20 percent of the population will be 65 years of age and older.  The need for skilled geriatric nurses needs to increase as rapidly as the older adult population to keep up with the demand, but this is not expected to happen.


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