Masters in Geriatrics
Geriatric nurses, more officially known as gerontological nurses, are some of the primary care providers for the elderly. If you're compassionate and concerned about the care of the aging, you might consider earning a master's degree in nursing with a geriatrics focus. Keep reading to learn more about this field, degree program options and career prospects.
Is Geriatrics the Same as Gerontology?
Geriatrics is a healthcare concentration that focuses on the medical needs of the aging and elderly. You'll often see the words 'geriatrics' and 'gerontology' used together, or even interchangeably, although the terms have different meanings. Geriatrics is a clinical field concerned with addressing the physical effects of growing older, but gerontology is the overall study of aging.
Geriatrics could be considered a part of gerontology, and earning a geriatrics-focused Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can actually lead you to certification in gerontology. In fact, the two certifications for advanced practice nurses focused on elder care are gerontological nurse practitioner (GNP) and gerontological clinical nurse specialist (GCNS).
|About Geriatrics||Clinical field addressing the physical effects of growing older|
|Degree Options||Geriatric nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist tracks offered; geriatrics fellowship that results in a master's degree available for medical doctors|
|Common Courses||Pathophysiology, patient assessment, pharmacotherapeutics, long-term care, health statistics|
|Online Availability||Some coursework offered online|
|Certifications||GNP from American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, GNP-BC and GCNS-BC from American Nurses Credentialing Center|
|Median Salary (2018)||$47,860 (Recreational Therapists)|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)||7% growth (Recreational Therapists)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
What Kind of Master's Degree Can I Earn in Geriatrics?
Most master's-level geriatrics programs are intended for qualified healthcare professionals, especially nurses, who want to specialize in the care of older adults. If you're a registered nurse, the most common master's degree in geriatrics is an MSN with a geriatric nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist in geriatrics track. Although you'll find that many programs use the 'geriatric' terminology in the degree names rather than 'gerontology,' these programs will still prepare you for GNP or GCNS certification.
If you're a doctor, you can complete a fellowship in geriatrics that sometimes results in a master's degree. However, it's important to note that you can only pursue these programs if you're a licensed physician who has already earned a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). This type of master's degree is optional, while the MSN for aspiring gerontological nurses is required for certification.
What Will I Study?
GNP and GCNS roles are similar, and their master's degree programs have correspondingly similar curricula. The main difference between these two positions is that GNPs are primary care providers for the elderly, while gerontological clinical nurse specialists combine patient care with extra duties in research, consulting and education related to geriatrics. In either program, you'll likely study the same core courses, only diverging during the clinical practicum. Those courses might include the following:
- Pathophysiology (changes in body function that signify a disease)
- Patient assessment
- Pharmacotherapeutics (drug treatments)
- Long-term care
- Health statistics
- Nursing research
Elective courses may allow you to study specific health issues that afflict geriatric populations. Common chronic, acute and episodic ailments that you might investigate include those listed below:
- Alzheimer's and dementia
- Injuries from falls
Can I Study Online?
Master's degree programs in geriatric nursing are not available fully online, since the clinical practicum is a crucial component. However, it's common for programs to offer some coursework online. You might be able to take courses in areas like ethics, nursing science and research online and then complete your clinical rotations at healthcare sites, such as hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care centers, near your home.
What Can I Do After I Earn the Degree?
After you've completed an MSN with a geriatrics focus, you can pursue certification from either the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The AANP offers the GNP credential, while the ANCC offers the GNP-BC and the GCNS-BC (the BC stands for 'board certified'). To earn any of these certifications, you must pass an exam covering areas such as the aging continuum, nursing ethics for the elderly, disease control, nutrition and evidence-based practice.