Gerontological Nurse Practitioner

A gerontological nurse practitioner (GNP) is a registered and advanced licensed nurse practitioner who specializes in caring for the elderly people. These practitioners hold a Master’s or doctoral degree with special training on the social, medical, mental health and pharmacological aspects of aging.

Duties and responsibilities of gerontological nurse practitioners

These professionals have similar educational background with RNs (registered nurses) but their duties differ from other areas of nursing because of the unique problems that may arise in elderly people. Some of the duties that these nurses carry out include:

  • Assessing medical problems of elderly patients: usually these professionals are the ones who decide whether their patients can perform their daily tasks unsupervised. Assessments may be carried out in activities such as taking medications, driving or even walking.
  • They must also be able to determine the health of their clients whether verbally or non -verbally by knowing the symptoms and also the medications being taken by their patients.
  • Performing patient medical tests either at home or in a doctor’s office.
  • Gerontological nurse practitioners also educate patients about preventative care and the prescribed medications.
  • Providing counseling to the patients and their families.
  • Developing an exercise program for patients who are recovering.
  • Working closely with doctors to determine the most appropriate treatment for their patients.
  • Preparing patients for surgery.
  • Taking vital signs during doctor’s visits.
  • Creation and management of patients’ records.
  • Administering medications to patients on the basis of a care plan.

Becoming a gerontological nurse practitioner

To become a GNP you must first become an RN. So as to obtain a license to practice as a registered nurse you may pursue an associate’s degree in nursing or a BSN. For a GNP, the BSN option is better because most of the schools that provide advanced degree programs in geriatrics require students to be holders of a bachelor’s degree for admission. GNPs require specialized training other than the skills gained through BSN programs. To obtain the required knowledge and skills so as to become a GNP, you can enroll in either a gerontology nurse practitioner certificate program or pursue an MSN with and specialize in geriatric nursing. These education programs teach a number of subjects including systemic pathyphysiology, adult syndromes, health economics, hospital operations, health assessment and pharmacology. All this training is aimed at equipping students with knowledge to diagnose, treat and manage acute and chronic conditions commonly found in older adults and usually associated to aging.

In addition to that, you can also pursue clinical experience in assisted living and retirement centers as part of your training. This clinical experience will enable you to understand some of the issues that you may encounter in your career and also equip you with practical working experience. Professional certification is also important upon completion of the degree program. You can either obtain this certification from the ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Centre) or the AANP (American Academy of Nurse Practitioners). This certification must be renewed every 5 years. You will not obtain certification unless you have completed advanced education and also an active license to practice. You must also prove that you have completed at least five hundred hours of faculty supervised gerontological clinical practice. Overall the whole education and certification process for gerontological nurse practitioners lasts between six and nine years depending on the degree obtained.

See also Nursing brain

Gerontological nurse practitioner salary and job outlook

Gerontological nurses work in facilities such as rehabilitation clinics, health care centers and hospitals as well as senior centers and long term care facilities. They may also work from patients homes. Those who work in hospitals earn more than those who work in long term care facilities and health care services. The earnings can also vary widely depending on your level of experience and the geographical location in which you practice. However, due to the growing demand for GNPs the salaries are generally averaging over $90,000.

The job outlook for GNPs is great because of the exponential growth of the elderly population. According to the AACN by the year 2030, almost 20% of the total population will be above 65 years of age. In addition to that half of all hospital stays are elderly patients. Bearing all this in mind, these nursing careers will grow considerably over the coming years.An increase in job opportunities in hospital and nursing care facilities of 20% and 22% respectively is expected. Your job prospects may even be better if you are a bilingual nurse.