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Make a Difference as a Gerontology Nurse

The health status of senior adults can quickly change. The needs of older patients are different from those of other age groups. That is why nurses prepared in the specialty of gerontology are essential members of the healthcare system. The path to becoming a gerontology nurse begins with completing a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program.

What Is a Gerontology Nurse?

A gerontology nurse provides specialized care to geriatric patients so they can retain their quality of life and remain independent. These nurses perform many of the same tasks they would while caring for younger patients but have added responsibilities that pertain to caring for the elderly. Additionally, gerontology nurses guide and educate patients and their family members on how to live with and manage their conditions.

Why Are Gerontology Nurses Important?

Geriatric patients are at a greater risk for falling or breaking bones. They are also more susceptible to diseases and life-threatening infections. Here are some examples of illnesses and chronic medical conditions that affect seniors.

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Arthritis
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Influenza
  • Kidney and bladder problems
  • Osteoporosis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Pneumonia

What Is the Role of a Gerontology Nurse?

Gerontology nurses often take care of patients who are bedridden or have limited mobility. Some geriatric patients may also have diminished mental capabilities due to their ailments. Job responsibilities include:

  • Administering medication.
  • Giving baths and maintaining patient hygiene.
  • Conducting routine exams and screenings.
  • Developing patient care plans.
  • Preventing pressure sores.

Is There a Shortage of Gerontology Nurses?

Yes. The healthcare workforce is not ready to meet the demands of the growing number of elderly patients. A shortage exists because a large segment of the patient population is 65 or older, and there are not enough nurse educators available to prepare nursing students in the gerontology specialty.

The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) released the report, "Preparing for Better Health and Health Care for an Aging Population: A Vital Direction for Health and Health Care," in which the authors point out an alarming deficit of competently prepared gerontology nurses, geriatricians and other gerontology healthcare professionals. They note that less than 1 percent of RNs are certified in geriatrics. To combat the shortage, the authors suggest implementing the following recommendations:

  • Prepare nurses for working in all settings where older adults receive care.
  • Institute competency in gerontology as a criterion for nursing licensure and certification.
  • Offer financial incentives, scholarships and loan forgiveness programs for nurses who specialize in geriatrics.

What Qualities Do Nurses Need to Succeed in the Gerontology Specialty?

Nurses interested in geriatric nursing must have a desire to care for senior patients, plenty of patience, and, ideally, the following qualities:

  • Calm demeanor
  • Cheerful disposition
  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Sensitivity to patient preferences

Gerontology nurses may create a strong bond with patients while assisting them with physical and emotional struggles. The specialty is challenging because nurses may have to endure the end-of-life process with their patients. However, nurses can also witness geriatric patients enjoying a full, active life while living with a disease. Many job opportunities are available because the need for gerontology nurses is great. If you are thinking about a career in gerontology nursing and have an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), you should consider applying to an online RN to BSN program.

Learn more about the University of South Carolina Aiken's online RN to BSN program.


Johnson & Johnson: Geriatric Nurse Geriatric Nurse

Campaign for Action: Not Enough Nurses Prepared to Care for America's Seniors

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