How to Become a Gerontology Nurse Practitioner in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for gerontology nurse practitioner. Get the facts about education, salary, licensing requirements and job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Family Nurse Practitioner degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Gerontology Nurse Practitioner?

A gerontology nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse who focuses on elderly patients and the diseases, ailments and illnesses most common to this demographic. While the scope of practice may change from state to state, nurse practitioners in general assess patients, and determine the best way to manage a patient's health. This is a career that requires a significant amount of formal education, as well as certification and continuing education. It also affords a high degree of responsibility, and often autonomy, in treatment decisions and implementation. Gerontology nurse practitioners typically work in close partnership with physicians, registered nurses, and other healthcare professionals.

The following chart provides an overview about specializing in gerontology as a nurse practitioner.

Degree Required At least a master's degree
Field of Study Nursing
Key Responsibilities Examine and treat elderly patients; write prescriptions; order laboratory tests; maintain patient records
Licensing or Certification All states require registered nurses to be licensed; board certification in gerontology is available for nurse practitioners
Job Growth (2014-2024) 35% (all nurse practitioners)*
Median Salary (2015) $98,190 (all nurse practitioners)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Does a Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Do?

A gerontology nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse who provides primary care to elderly adults. In such a position, your responsibilities will include obtaining patient histories, examining patients or assisting physicians with examinations, ordering and interpreting tests, participating in treatment planning, implementing treatment plans and prescribing medications. You'll also educate patients about self-care and explain care procedures to family members.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

Because nurse practitioners need at least a master's degree, and a bachelor's degree is an admission requirement to master's programs, you'll need to earn a 4-year degree rather than a 2-year associate's degree in nursing. Colleges and universities offer both stand-alone and bachelor's completion programs.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing provides training in basic and intermediate nursing practices and introduces you to an array of specialized topics. Courses address nursing theory, patient management, nurse leadership and public health. Health assessment, case management and nursing research are other possible course subjects. Most programs include clinical rotations.

Step 2: Obtain Licensure as a Registered Nurse

All U.S. states and the District of Columbia require you to pass the National Council Licensure Examination and obtain a license before working as a registered nurse (RN). Other requirements will vary by state, so you may want to check with your state board. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that a little over 2.7 million people were employed as registered nurses in 2014 (www.bls.gov). Some graduate programs recommend you have some experience working as an RN, so you may want to work as one before applying to graduate programs. To learn the needs of geriatric patients, consider working in retirement homes or hospice and palliative care settings.

Step 3: Earn a Nurse Practitioner Graduate Degree

Many graduate schools offer Master of Science and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs with a concentration in gerontological nurse practitioner. These programs examine the special medical needs of geriatric patients and train you to help them understand age-related debilities, prevent illness and promote general health. Possible courses include advanced physiology, pharmacology and acute care. The curriculum typically includes a practicum through which you might work a number of rotations in nursing homes, retirement communities and primary-care practices.

Step 4: Pursue a Job

Although figures for gerontology nurses weren't available, the BLS reported that employment for nurse practitioners as a whole was projected to increase 35% from 2014-2024. Hospitals, physicians' offices, home health care centers and nursing homes would be your leading employment options, according to the BLS. Growth in the population of elderly people and life-extending advances in medical care were expected to drive the demand for nurses. Nurse practitioners earned a median salary of $98,190 as of May 2015, according to BLS.

Step 5: Consider Certification

The American Nurses Credentialing Center administers gerontological nurse practitioner certification (www.nursecredentialing.org). To be eligible, you'll need to hold an RN license and have completed a gerontological nurse practitioner graduate program, which included at least 500 hours of supervised clinical hours. Once you pass the exam, you'll be awarded the Gerontological Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified credential.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are many occupations with similar education requirements and a similar scope of responsibility as a nurse practitioner. These include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech pathology. All are healthcare professions, and require completion of a master's degree or specific postgraduate program. Occupational therapists work with patients to build or improve skills for everyday living, while physical therapists help patients improve mobility and manage pain. Speech pathologists work with patients who have communication or swallowing disorders.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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