Older adults are the core business of health care in this country today, representing the majority of primary and home care visits, hospital admissions, and long-term care residents. Recent Census Bureau projections show that the rapid growth rate of those over 65 will not even begin to slow until after 2040. For nurses, geriatrics is a particularly challenging and exciting career choice. It often involves combining biological, psychological, and social changes associated with aging. And unlike in the acute care setting, nurses in geriatric-centered environments often build long-term relationships with their clients and clients’ families.

Duties of a Geriatric Nurse

Learning about what makes older people “tick” along with their health care is what draws many nurses into this field. Many older adults have multiple medical problems and may be on many medications, so they often do not present with typical signs and symptoms. While patients might experience the typical geriatric syndromes such as incontinence, falls or changes in mental or emotional status, those incidents may be symptoms of an underlying acute medical problem. These “atypical presentations” present a mystery, a puzzle to be solved that is both engaging and puzzling, involving intense research and investigation to find that underlying problem.

Gerontological nurses also need to determine functional needs of older adult patients. The ability to assess whether an older adult can live and function alone, to drive, take medications, walk or eat. A basic functional assessment provides a base from which an underlying medical problem can be discovered. This long-term relationship with an elderly patient can be rewarding, as many nurses feel a great sense of pride in helping their elderly patients with preventative care and treatment.

Typical venues for a geriatric nurse include hospitals, community health centers, senior centers, long-term care facilities and patients’ homes. While this career can prove exciting, many challenges are present in this specialty. The geriatric nurse may need to deal with patients’ deaths, and decreased mental capabilities of some patients may make it difficult to involve them in the decision-making process to maximize their independence.

Related Types of Nurses

The geriatric nurse maintains a long-term relationship with patients and families, a career that is similar to those nurses who work in pediatrics. While both careers represent opposite ends of the age spectrum, they both deal with the special needs of patients during a patient’s lifespan. Also, forensic nursing, with its implications of solving a puzzle in each case, is similar to understanding elder patient care.

Geriatric Nursing Degrees

Recognizing the strong need for geriatric nurses, many nursing schools integrating the gerontological nursing content in courses and clinical experiences in their BSN and MSN programs. Some schools of nursing also offer elective courses, specifically in geriatric nursing for undergraduate students. At the doctoratal level, graduates can find nursing educator careers, as many nursing educators are retiring. At this level, geriatric research also is in high demand. In all cases, the nurse must obtain an active RN licensure to work as a geriatric nurse.

Online Undergraduate Programs in Geriatric Nursing

  • Chamberlain College of Nursing: RN to BSN
  • Colorado Technical University: RN to BSN
  • Drexel University: RN to BSN
  • Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences: RN to BSN
  • Indiana State University: LPN to BSN
  • Kaplan University: RN to BSN
  • Liberty University: RN to BSN
  • South University: RN to BSN
  • University of Phoenix: RN to BSN
  • Walden University: BSN

Online Graduate Programs in Geriatric Nursing

  • American Sentinel University: RN to MSN
  • Benedictine University : MSN
  • Brandman University: MSN to DNP
  • Chamberlain College of Nursing: MSN
  • Grantham University: RN to MSN
  • Kaplan University: MSN
  • Keiser University: MSN
  • Ohio University: MSN
  • Spring Arbor University: MSN
  • South University: MSN
  • University of Massachusetts: DNP
  • University of Phoenix: MSN
  • University of Phoenix: PhD in Nursing
  • University of San Francisco: BSN to MSN
  • Walden University: BSN to MSN
  • Walden University: DNP
  • Walden University: RN to MSN

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Top 10 Online Nursing Schools

University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix — BSN, MSN, and Certificate. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest online university and currently offers several nursing programs at three different degree levels, based on previous nursing education and experience.

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Kaplan University
Kaplan University — Bachelor's, and Master's Nursing Degrees. Kaplan's School of Nursing offers specializations for nurse administrators and nurse educators.

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Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon University — BS in Nursing (BSN) and MBA/MS in Nursing. Grand Canyon University offers a unique MBA/MS in nursing degree program that teaches students about the business aspect of healthcare, specifically nursing healthcare. Current nurses who want more business experience will find this may be an ideal fit.

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Liberty University
Liberty University — RN to BSN Degree and MSN Degree. The Department of Nursing at Liberty prepares students for baccalaureate level nursing, putting strong emphasis on Christian ethical standards and viewing nursing as a ministry of caring.

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Walden University
Walden University — M.S. in Nursing (RN Track), M.S in Nursing (BSN Track). Walden offers a wide variety of nursing degrees and certificates that are all accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

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