Submitted by Andrew Steger on Sun, 10/03/2021 - 22:14

Careers in Nursing: What is a Geriatric Nurse?

Geriatric nurses are specially trained to care for patients in older adulthood. With the aging population continuing to increase in the United States, it’s no surprise that this healthcare position is currently in high demand.

Being a geriatric nurse offers rewarding work, stable job opportunities, and desirable starting salaries. While these factors can make the job seem promising, it’s also important to understand exactly what geriatric nursing entails.

If you are looking to learn how to become a geriatric nurse, you have come to the right place. To get a better sense of this career path, read on for everything you need to know about geriatric nursing!



What Do Geriatric Nurses Do?

So what is geriatric nursing exactly? Registered nurses (RNs) who specialize in geriatric care spend a majority of their time caring for and promoting the health of patients 65 years and older. Many of these older adult patients may have mobility issues or chronic health conditions, making this type of nursing care even more vital.

What is geriatric nursing in terms of responsibilities? Some of the most common duties a geriatric nurse may perform on a daily basis include:

  • Administering medications

  • Assess patients’ mental and physical wellbeing

  • Coordinating care for chronic conditions and diseases

  • Assist patients with functional health and well being

  • Educating family members/caregivers about a patient’s health needs

  • Examining older adults for new or changing signs and symptoms of illness

Geriatric nurses also provide a deeper level of mental and emotional care for their patients. As a geriatric nurse, you’ll work closely with patients and take on specific responsibilities, such as:

  • Advocating for patients

  • Collaborating with multiple specialty healthcare providers

  • Understanding and caring for all aspects of chronic illnesses

  • Creating a comfortable environment for patients

  • Conducting health screenings and preventing complications: such as depression screenings and medication assessment

While these are just a few examples of common responsibilities, a geriatric nurse may provide a wide scope of care for a person in older adulthood. The type of work you do will ultimately depend on the patient and their individual needs.

Where Do Geriatric Nurses Work?

Geriatric nurses can be found in any healthcare facility where elderly people are admitted. Popular places of employment for this type of registered nurse may include:

  • Hospitals

  • Skilled nursing facilities

  • Outpatient care

  • Rehabilitation centers

  • Senior centers and retirement communities

  • Home healthcare

It’s important to keep in mind the conditions that come with each work environment. For example, a hospital may provide far more teamwork and support, but the pace of work is often faster than that of a home healthcare position. That being said, home healthcare nurses will need excellent communication skills in order to collaborate with team members from a distance and provide the same quality of care that a hospital would.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, home healthcare positions also focus on a single patient at a time (but often see multiple patients per day), with little to no help from other medical professionals. This is what makes geriatric nursing such a diverse and unique career.

How Much Do Geriatric Nurses Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs as a whole earn an average salary of $75,330 per year—or $36.22 per hour. While these statistics do not differentiate between RN specialties, both Payscale and Glassdoor report the average geriatric nurse salary somewhere between $65,870 and $67,530.

It’s important to note that certain variables—such as location and educational background—can have a significant impact on a geriatric nurse’s salary. For example, master’s-degree educated nurse practitioners (NPs) who specialize in geriatric care earn a much higher salary of $172,645 per year—or $83 per hour. Of course, this is only applicable to nurses who choose to advance their education beyond the traditional RN requirements.

As far as location goes, certain cities and states in the U.S. tend to pay their geriatric nurses much higher salaries than others. Some of the best places to work as a geriatric RN include:

  • Los Angeles, CA – $38.53 per hour.

  • New York City, NY – $36.24 per hour.

  • Seattle, WA – $33.98 per hour.

  • Houston, TX – $32.41 per hour.

The job outlook for nurses with geriatric speciality knowledge is also promising. With only 1% of RNs and 3% of NPs currently certified in geriatric care, the job openings for this position are expected to skyrocket, especially given that the U.S. population is getting older. The BLS expects a 7% growth rate for all RN jobs throughout 2029.

Good Traits of a Geriatric Nurse

Not all nursing jobs are the same. This means that your individual characteristics, personality traits, and overall working style can greatly affect the branch of nursing that you wind up in. For nurses considering a career in geriatric care, note that these traits and nursing skills will come in handy in this line of work:

  • Patience

  • Optimism

  • Physical endurance

  • Empathy and understanding

  • Compassion

These skills will be helpful in providing the best possible care for elderly patients, both in a hospital or home health setting.

Is Geriatric Nursing a Good Career?

Now that you’re familiar with the job description of a geriatric nurse, one question remains: Is this a good career?

The answer is yes! For nurses who are truly passionate about caring for the elderly, geriatric nursing is a solid career choice. This field is expected to grow over the next decade, with plenty of job opportunities becoming available. If you feel as though this is the right path for you, then get started with your education and certification today by checking out these online ABSN programs.



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.


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