Why Choose Gerontological Nursing?

A gerontological nurse practitioner helps patients manage medications.The health care industry is going to see a rise in demand from America’s oldest population. According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 49 million Americans are aged 65 or older. That number is expected to double over the next four decades, reaching 98 million by 2060.

Worth noting is that seniors are deemed one of the most vulnerable populations because of their greater susceptibility to chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and cognitive issues. In fact, 80% of adults over 65 have at least one chronic condition that requires ongoing management.

The ever-growing need for health care services that cater specifically to America’s seniors is exactly where gerontological nursing comes into play. With health care workers who are skilled and educated in treating older adults, our nation’s most vulnerable population is in good hands.

What Is a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner?

Gerontological nurse practitioners (aka geriatric nurse practitioners) are health care workers who’ve received advanced training and education in the field of gerontological nursing. Older populations require medical staff members who understand their specific health care needs and vulnerabilities and how injuries and illnesses affect them differently from younger demographics.

Gerontological nurse practitioners specialize in serving as the primary health care providers to patients around 65 or older. In addition to managing the physical effects of aging, such as chronic conditions and diseases, gerontological nurse practitioners manage the social and mental effects. That includes keeping patients who feel lonely company or playing stimulating games with them to maintain their mental acuity.

What Are the Job Duties of a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner?

The specific job duties of a gerontological nurse practitioner are similar to those of a nurse practitioner who specializes in family care, but with some key distinctions due to the difference in their patient base. During a typical shift, a gerontological nurse practitioner will:

  • Collect and record a patient’s medical history
  • Administer medications
  • Monitor vital signs
  • Treat chronic and/or critical conditions
  • Treat injuries resulting from falls or accidents
  • Assist patients with everyday activities, such as eating, getting dressed, and using the bathroom
  • Order and interpret medical tests
  • Explain a patient’s medical condition and/or status to immediate family members
  • Create a care plan for family members

Although gerontological nurses can work in virtually any health care setting, they’re most often found in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and assisted living and long-term care facilities. Considering that gerontological nurses serve as primary health care providers, it’s not uncommon for them to see the same set of patients for several years, as they manage their care on an ongoing basis.

How to Become a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner

The path to becoming a gerontology nurse practitioner is similar to the path to becoming a nurse practitioner generalist, but with the distinction of selecting a specialty in gerontological nursing during graduate school. The full list of steps is as follows:

  1. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
  2. Pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN)
  3. Gain experience as a registered nurse and in working with patients aged 65 and over.
  4. Earn a Master of Science (MSN) with a concentration in gerontological nursing.
  5. Get a nurse practitioner certification from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Once they’ve completed the five steps, graduates can apply for positions as gerontological nurse practitioners in hospitals, clinics, and elderly care centers.

Gerontological Nurse Practitioner Salary and Job Outlook

Considering that the senior population is projected to double in 40 years, gerontological nurse practitioners can count on having job security for the foreseeable future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the role of nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners will grow by 40% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the national average of 5% for all occupations.

Regarding salary, the BLS reported that nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners made approximately $123,800 in 2021. However, that salary isn’t specific to gerontological nurse practitioners. According to the salary reporting site Payscale, the current gerontological nurse practitioner salary is approximately $103,000 per year.

Worth noting is that the salary data from PayScale and the BLS are estimates meant to serve as a baseline. Education, experience, region, facility, and other factors will all affect the salary.

Start a Career as a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner

When it comes to providing reliable health care services to our nation’s most vulnerable population, nothing is more important than having skilled nurses in the field of gerontological nursing. Gerontological nurse practitioners are critical in keeping seniors healthy and helping them maintain their quality of life.

Those who are interested in making a difference in the lives of elderly patients are encouraged to start by investing in education, such as Hawai‘i Pacific University’s online Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice program. Offered in three distinct specialties, this program features an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner concentration that prepares nurses to work with elderly populations. Courses such as fundamentals of acute care, advanced clinical decision-making, and evidence-based practice for advanced nursing will serve to lay the groundwork for a successful career in nursing.

Take the first step into a career in gerontological nursing with Hawai‘i Pacific University. 

Recommended Reading

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Professional Boundaries in Nursing: Tips for Nurse Leaders

Servant Leadership in Nursing 


American Nurses Credentialing Center, Gerontological Nursing Certification (GERO-BC)

ExploreHealthCareers.org, Geriatric Staff Nurse

Indeed, What Does an Adult Geriatric Nurse Practitioner Do?

Indeed, What Is Geriatric Nursing? Definition, Duties and Requirements

Johnson & Johnson, Gerontological Nurse Practitioner

National Council on Aging, Get the Facts on Healthy Aging

Payscale, Salary for Certification: Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (GNP)

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners