A geriatric nurse is a skilled trained in the health issues that commonly face the elderly population. This nurse may be employed in retirement homes, active living communities, and senior living communities or be employed by home health organizations. Geriatric nurses must not only understand the health issues facing the elderly but the social and economic challenges with which the elderly commonly struggle. The sense of isolation that some geriatric patients may feel can be as detrimental to overall health as the chronic conditions that accompany aging.

How to Become a Geriatric Nurse

The Geriatric nurse is a registered nurse. Many nurse practitioners also choose geriatrics or adult gerontology as their specialty. The specific program can be known as a different name depending on the nursing school. Adult nursing, adult gerontology, geriatric nurse, geriatric nurse practitioner, and adult nurse practitioner are just a few names to look out for.

The geriatric nurse practitioner is required to have an additional 2 years of advanced practice schooling beyond the four year Bachelor of Science in nursing degree. Compassion is a key requirement for this type of nursing as the patient population are vulnerable to not only physical disorders but depression. While licensed Vocational Nurses can and does work in elder care the certified Geriatric nurse is an RN. The need for geriatric nurses is so great that some facilities do not require certification but for career advancement as well as in order to provide the best care possible, certification in geriatric nursing is highly recommended.

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Geriatric Nurse Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs

  • Successfully complete a 2 or 4 year nursing program earning an Associate or Bachelor degree in Nursing. Many schools are offering more courses in elder care than ever before.
  • Acquire 2000 hours of nursing in the geriatrics field in order to qualify for certification as a Geriatric nurse.
  • The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers certification to nurses working with older patients. In order to become certified, nurses must have two full years practice as a registered nurse, 2,000 hours in gerontological nursing and 30 continuing education hours in the geriatric field. Applicants must also pass an examination covering topics such as aging, communication, lifestyle changes, management and ethics. Successful candidates will receive an Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC) designation. The National Gerontological Nursing Association (NGNA) recommends certification for all nurses working with older patients as certified nurses make up more than 50-percent of professionals working in this area.

As with many fields in nursing the shortage of skilled nurses has led to more job opportunities in specialty fields for the new graduate. However, career advancement may depend upon the nurse acquiring an advanced degree such as a Clinical Nursing Degree (Master of Science in Nursing) or Geriatric Certification.

Geriatric Nurse Job Description & Scope of Practice

Generally the Geriatric nurse is an RN with training in treating and caring for elderly patients. These nurses may see their patients in clinics, or retirement homes or through a home health agency providing necessary medical care for independent living.  These nurses provide the support required to maintain physical health in their patients and maintain maximum quality of life.

Geriatric nurses in retirement homes or nursing facilities may work extended shifts and are responsible for patient assessment, injections and record keeping. The Registered Geriatric nurse in a nursing home may also have supervisory responsibilities as well as patient care responsibilities.

Elderly care includes facilities which provide nursing care for patients suffering from disorders such as Alzheimer’s or dementia which may make them combative or disoriented. The job of a Geriatric nurse requires a nurse with a great degree of compassion as well as the ability to work well under stress.

Geriatric Nurse Salary and Career Outlook

The first baby boomers are reaching retirement age and the need for Geriatric nurses is predicted to explode as the largest generation in history ages. The career outlook for the geriatric nurse is very strong. Nursing positions are predicted to grow by at least 21% through the next 8 years.

The salary of a nurse in elder care depends upon their level of education and the part of the country in which they work. However, an RN has an average salary of $59,000 a year.

Scholarships for Geriatric Nurses

Gerontology Nursing Scholarships that Pay Education Expenses

Students have multiple methods at their disposal when seeking gerontology nursing scholarships to help pay for nursing school. This is a growing field of nursing because of our aging population. As a result, geriatric nurses are in high demand. This will cause the number of scholarship opportunities to continue to grow.

National Gerontology Scholarship Programs

There are various national organizations that offer scholarships to nursing students specializing in geriatric nursing. These programs may be administered by membership organizations that can restrict scholarships to members. However, many such scholarships are open to all students regardless of membership status. The following are examples of national programs that offer geriatric nursing scholarships.

National Gerontological Nursing Association
The Association offers Mary Opal Wolanin Scholarships which are open to both undergraduate and graduate nursing students who plan to work in gerontological nursing and are members of the Association. Scholarships are awarded based on academic scores, current experience and future plans in geriatric nursing, personal essay and letters of recommendation. Only students with at least a 3.0 GPA qualify for this scholarship. Awards are $500. Applications are typically due to the Association by June annually. For applications and guidelines, students can contact the Association at 3493 Lansdowne Drive, Suite 2, Lexington, KY 40517 or by calling (800) 723-0560.

American Academy of Nursing
The Academy offers the Building Academic Geriatric Nursing Capacity Scholarship to doctoral nursing student who plan to pursue academic and research careers in geriatric nursing.  Each scholarship recipient is awarded $100,000 for a two-year period. Scholarships are awarded based on current academic and work records as well as future potential for success in the geriatric field. Online applications are due in January annually.  For additional information, interested nurses can contact the Academy at 1000 Vermont Avenue NW, Suite 910, Washington, DC 20005 or by calling (202) 777-1170.

State Gerontology Scholarship Programs

States may offer scholarships to nursing students interested in gerontology or geriatric nursing care.  State-wide organizations that focus on geriatric care may be another source of scholarships for nursing students. Many of these organizations are membership agencies and can require you to join to be eligible for scholarships.  Nonprofit geriatric organizations may offer scholarships to employees or to nursing students with the stipulation they work at the nonprofit or in the community after graduating from college.

Educational Institute Gerontology Scholarship Programs

Nursing students currently attending a geriatric nursing program may be eligible for scholarships directly from their school.  Scholarships can be open to all nursing students or specific for nursing students studying geriatric healthcare. To find out if these scholarships are available through your school, contact your school’s financial aid office or visit the nursing department.  The following is an example of a school that offers scholarships to nursing students specializing in geriatrics.

Georgia State University
Students enrolled in the University’s School of Nursing or Gerontology Institute can apply for over 20 scholarships including the Fulton County Gerontology Scholarship, the Charles and Catherine B. Rice Scholarship, and the Barbara Haltiwanger Nursing Scholarship. Each scholarship program has individual eligibility and application requirements. Award amounts vary depending upon the scholarship. Students interested in these opportunities can call (404) 413-5210.

Employer-Sponsored Gerontology Scholarship Programs

Healthcare employers or senior care organizations may offer scholarships to encourage employees and community members to obtain a degree in geriatric nursing with the intent they work for the employer for a period of time after graduating from college.  The Keswick Multi-Care Center is a healthcare employer that offers scholarships to geriatric nursing students.

Keswick Multi-Care Center
Through the Keswick Foundation nursing students who plan to work in geriatrics can apply for the Henry Baker Registered Nursing Scholarship or the Keswick Geriatric Nursing Assistant Scholarship. Students can be enrolled in an accredited nursing degree program or schools that offer geriatric nursing assistant’s certifications. Applicants must be graduating high school seniors who live in Baltimore, Maryland. Scholarships are awarded based on academic scores, personal essay, and letters of recommendation. Students must agree to work at Keswick upon graduation for a minimum of two years. Awards are $500 and applications are due by the end of February annually.  For applications and guidelines, contact the Foundation by calling (410) 235-8860.

Community-Based Gerontology Scholarship Programs

Community resources are also available for nursing students who want to work in geriatrics. There may be senior care centers that offer scholarships as well as local foundations that focus on geriatric care.  The following is an example of a foundation that offers scholarships to students who want to study geriatric nursing.

J. P. and Maude V. Schroeder Memorial Trust
Graduating high school seniors who are interested in pursuing a geriatric healthcare degree can apply for a scholarship from the Trust.  Applicants must be current residents of Grant County, Washington to qualify for financial assistance. Scholarships are awarded based on academic scores, future goals, and letters of recommendation. Award amounts vary.  Applications are due to the Trust by the end of April annually. For applications and guidelines, students can contact the Trust, c/o U.S. Bank, N.A., P.O. Box 3168, Portland, OR 97208.

Gerontology nursing scholarships are available from multiple sources to help students enter a field that has a high demand for qualified geriatric nurses and nursing assistants. Students can apply for multiple scholarships to pay for nursing school.