How to Become a Geriatric Nurse
Geriatric nursing is one of the most in-demand professions in the healthcare industry. With 16.2% of the U.S. population currently over the age of 65, it’s no surprise that the need for nurses trained in the care of older adults is continuing to grow. Not to mention that the aging population is expected to reach 22% by 2050 — these figures are all the more reason to pursue a career in geriatric nursing.
If you’re considering a career focused on caring for older adults, you may be wondering how to achieve such a position. Fortunately, we’ve got all the answers you need in order to complete this path and begin a rewarding career in healthcare.
Continue reading for a step-by-step guide on how to become a geriatric nurse!
Step #1 – Education
The first step to any nursing specialty is earning the proper nursing degree. All nurses must complete an undergraduate or associate degree in order to begin practicing.
When it comes to geriatric nursing, you’ve got a few options:
ADN – An Associate Degree in Nursing — also known as an ADN — can be completed in about two years. Most community colleges and trade schools offer ADN programs, and upon graduation, you will be able to take the NCLEX-RN and obtain a nursing license. An ADN program will place less focus on the research and leadership skills needed for other nursing careers.
BSN – A Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a degree earned from a four year college or university. This program delves deeper into the leadership, population health, and evidence-based practice. Nurses who earn their BSN typically have increased job opportunities, higher starting salaries, and better chances of getting promoted. An online ABSN program is also another option for individuals looking to change careers after graduating, and allows you more flexibility as the student given it’s hybrid — online and in-person — approach.
Step #2 – Licensure
The next step to becoming a geriatric nurse involves passing the NCLEX-RN and obtaining an unrestricted RN license. The NCLEX-RN uses computer adaptive testing to assess your knowledge and clinical skills in four main areas of nursing:
Providing a safe and effective care environment
Health promotion and maintenance
With an active RN license, you’ll be able to move on to the next step in your geriatric nursing career: Certification.
Step #3 – Application
Once you’ve passed the NCLEX-RN, you’ll need to apply for an RN license from the state you plan to work in. The requirements needed for this application typically include:
A form of ID
All higher-education transcripts
Any fees associated with the application
Step #4 – Specialties and Certifications
Many geriatric nurses go on to earn certification in the adult-gerontology acute or primary specialty in order to advance their career, increase job opportunities, and widen their scope of care. Adult-gerontology refers to the treatment of patients throughout their lifespan, including geriatric care.
This certificate is known as a Gerontological Nursing Certification (GERO-BC), which is offered through The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The requirements for this certificate include:
An unrestricted, active RN license
Two years of clinical nursing experience
A minimum of 2,000 hours of gerontological nursing experience over the last three years
At least 30 hours of continued education in gerontological nursing within the same timespan
Step #5 – Advanced Education
Finally, some geriatric nurses may choose to complete an advanced nursing degree. Higher education in the world of nursing can lead to increased salaries and more leadership positions. Below are two of the most common educational paths for advanced-level nurses:
Direct-Entry MSN – A direct-entry Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a graduate-level degree program designed for non-nursing bachelor’s graduates. These programs typically take between 15 months and three years to complete, and allow graduates to earn certifications as nurse practitioners (NPs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). This can lead to increased salaries and more leadership opportunities in the field of geriatric nursing.
DNP – The highest level of education a clinical nurse can earn is a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Over the next decade, the educational requirements for NPs and APRNs are expected to switch from an MSN to an online DNP degree. Nurses who wish to pursue these titles in the specialty of geriatric care may want to consider getting ahead of this change and earning their DNP now. A DNP program can take anywhere from three to seven years to complete, depending on your educational background.
Is Geriatric Nursing the Right Career For Me?
Beyond an esteemed degree and a solid resume, there are certain aspects of geriatric care that just come naturally to some people. Geriatric nursing is a unique profession that closely works with aging patients, and some nurses may be more drawn to caring for this population than others.
If you’re interested in pursuing this line of work, consider whether or not you possess the following traits and nursing skills:
Physical endurance – Working with the elderly may require additional physical strength, particularly when patients have mobility issues.
Empathy – When working in the field of geriatric care, it’s important for nurses to have a high level of empathy. Patients struggling with loss of independence and chronic illnesses will need a caring healthcare provider who is prepared to comfort them and make their lives easier.
When it comes to geriatric nursing, healthcare facilities are looking for candidates who are truly passionate about this line of work. If you’re looking to help elderly patients, and make their lives easier and more enjoyable throughout their later years, then a career as a geriatric nurse might just be the one for you.
The content published on our blog is reviewed by credentialed healthcare professionals to give you the most up-to-date and professionally accurate information. This particular article was professionally reviewed by Colleen Sanders, RN, FNP-BC on October 2, 2021.
Statista. Share of old age population (65 years and older) in the total U.S. population from 1950 to 2050. https://www.statista.com/statistics/457822/share-of-old-age-population-in-the-total-us-population/
Nurse Practitioner Schools. Is a DNP Degree an NP Requirement? https://www.nursepractitionerschools.com/faq/dnp-requirement-for-np/
Nurse. 4 Steps to Becoming a Geriatric Nurse. https://nurse.org/resources/geriatric-nurse/
Nursing World. Gerontological Nursing Certification. https://www.nursingworld.org/our-certifications/gerontological-nurse/
Every Nurse. What is a Geriatric Nurse? https://everynurse.org/careers/geriatric-nurse/