Serving America’s Aging Population

In North America and around the world, people are living longer than ever before. This increase in lifespan has led to a growth in the aging population as well as a demand for people to care for them. As a registered nurse specializing in geriatrics, also known as an erotological nurse or long-term care nurse, you would help do exactly that. Geriatric nurses cultivate a skill-set specially tailored to caring for the elderly, and it spans everything from clinical care to psychology.

Today, geriatric nurses are in very high demand in the United States, and here we’ll examine what the job entails, what the salary and growth expectations are for the position, and what kind of background you would need to enter this area of the nursing field.

What Do Geriatric Nurses Do?

Geriatric nurses help care for the aging population in a compassionate way. Geriatric nurses are trained specifically to understand and treat the often complex physical and mental health needs of elderly patients. Their job is to try to help their patients protect their health and cope with changes in their mental and physical abilities, so they can live independent and active lives for as long as possible.

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The areas where nurses may help their patients include checking their mental health via cognitive testing, checking them physically for signs of a fall or other problems, and helping them with physical therapy. The day-to-day duties of a geriatric nurse include many of the same ones as a nurse working in any other area of nursing, like coordinating medications and assessing their patient’s mental and physical health. There are some specific to the role, which include:

  • Understanding any chronic or acute health concerns their patients may have related to old age
  • Discussing those concerns (falls, incontinence, erratic sleep patterns) with patients and educating them on self-care and prevention of health issues.
  • Connecting patients to resources and otherwise acting as a liaison between care providers, patients and their families
  • Planning a physical therapy regimen to increase mobility
  • Informing patients’ family of care routine, including exercise and medications
  • Procuring the right medical equipment (walkers, diabetes testing apparatus) for patients

What’s the Outlook for This Job?

A booming demand for this nursing specialization makes the career outlook for geriatric nursing very favorable. Nursing schools are adjusting their curriculums to include more material specializing in geriatric care, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of Americans over age 65 is supposed to grow to 72 million by 2030. That projected growth will create a spike in jobs now and into the future.

The BLS has reported a median salary of $70,000 for registered nurses, and $65,710 for nurses who work at skilled nursing facilities like nursing homes. The very top of the salary range for this job can make six figures.

Higher demand for geriatric nurses and a shift in the way American facilities are approaching elderly care mean that someone in this field can work in a variety of places besides hospitals and nursing homes. Private, localized facilities are opening more locations around the country. Elderly care facilities are moving toward a more “small house” approach, opting to create a more home-like atmosphere for their patients akin to a hotel, and many also work with patients directly in their homes.