What's the Job Description of a Long-Term Care Nurse?

Research what it takes to become a long-term care nurse. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Adult Health Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Long-Term Care Nurse?

A long-term care nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who is responsible for caring for patients who required extended medical care. Their patients may have injuries that require a prolonged period for recovery, or they may have a disability or illness. Long-term care nurses also work with the elderly. Long-term care nurses typically work in nursing home facilities, skilled nursing facilities or other medical facilities where patients can receive long-term medical care. Long-term nurses administer medications to patients, coordinate patient care and ensure that patients receive appropriate medical care in a safe environment.

Degree Required Postsecondary diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing
Key Responsibilities Administer prescribed medication; operate medical equipment and monitor patient status; record patient information in medical records; assist physician with examinations and administer treatments
Licensure and/or Certification All states require RNs to be licensed; optional specialty certifications available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for all RNs*
Mean Salary (2015) $63,490 for RNs in nursing care facilities; $68,510 for RNs in home health care services*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as a Long-Term Care Nurse?

Patients who no longer need to be hospitalized but still need nursing care are usually moved from a hospital to an appropriate facility for ongoing treatment and care. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all types of nursing facilities are required by law to be staffed with licensed nursing personnel to comply with care standards (www.bls.gov).

As with most nursing jobs, you administer medicines, oversee treatments and ensure compliance with prescribed therapies. You keep accurate, detailed records of treatments and medications; you also assess and record patients' vital signs and other information about their condition. You may oversee routine patient care by certified nursing assistants and other support personnel while coordinating with physicians and other health care team members. Monitoring patients' physical activity and nutrition habits could also be part of your job description. In addition to your daily work duties, you need to keep up with new developments in your field and complete continuing education courses on a regular basis to maintain your nursing license.

Where Can I Work?

You can work in private or public nursing centers, convalescent homes or rehabilitative facilities. You may also find employment with inpatient mental health facilities or drug/alcohol treatment centers. If you want to help those in the armed forces, you may decide to work for a government-sponsored facility, such as through the Veteran's Administration. Another option could be working in an assisted-living center, where most of the residents may be ambulatory but need a nurse to administer daily medicines or help with medical emergencies.

According to the BLS, you may also choose to work as a home health nurse, caring for chronically ill or injured patients in their homes. The BLS reported that 6% of registered nurses were employed in home health care services, with 7% working in nursing and residential care facilities as of 2014.

What Hours Might I Work?

Patients in long-term care facilities need treatment around the clock, so you may need to be available (on-call) 24 hours a day, including holidays, weekends and nights. However, the BLS states that many nurses technically only work part time -- about 30 hours a week, with more hours required from private sector employers.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Occupational therapy assistants and physical therapy assistants are professionals who perform some duties that are similar to the work of long-term care nurses. Occupational therapy assistants and physical therapy assistants need an associate's degree in their field.

Occupational therapy assistants work with patients who are undergoing treatment to improve their ability to perform daily tasks and regular skills such as buttoning clothes or holding a pen to print information. They may work with individuals with disabilities or who have been affected by illness or injury. They implement the care plan that is designed by an occupational therapist and help the patients perform exercises.

Physical therapy assistants also work with individuals who may have disabilities, or have been affected by illness or injury, and they also help their patients perform exercises designed by a physical therapist to help them improve their gross motor skills.

Like long-term care nurses, occupational therapy assistants and physical therapy assistants are medical professionals who are directly involved in the long-term treatment of patients with the goal of improving their quality of life and ability to perform routine tasks independently.

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