Career Trends for Geriatric Nurses

As part of our series of question-and-answer chats with healthcare leaders, Caryl Mayo, RN, secretary and fellow of the National Gerontological Nursing Association (NGNA) discusses how healthcare reform will impact the profession and how geriatric nurses can best advance their own career.

What’s the biggest change seen or foreseen with healthcare reform, specifically for geriatric nursing? 

Right now, our nursing grads are seeking positions working with older adults, which is very satisfying for schools that have designated gerontological content courses. With the continued increase in aging populations and life expectancy, the need for gerontological nurses will continue to increase as well.

Traditionally, students wanted to go into acute-care settings. Now, we see students who want long-term care. Some have been approached by long-term care facilities where they work, who tell them they will be adding nurses.

What are the biggest changes in the workplace for members of your association?

NGNA members are feeling the support of the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) “Future of Nursing” report related to caring for the older adult, the special needs of the older adult and the focus on preventative care. The need for gerontological nurses in all areas of healthcare – acute, long term, rural, community and public policy – is evident. The need for more advanced-practice gerontological nurses and gerontological educators for academic and community settings is promoted within the IOM report.

You can find information at the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association about geriatric nurse practitioner academic programs.

We are trying to keep people in their homes more. So we will see more jobs available in community-based settings and at-home settings.

What specialties or certifications do you see growing in the next five years? 

There is a certification in gerontological nursing. I think the big thing happening now is the Nurses Improving Care for HealthSystem Elders (NICHE) certification.

There’s more and more focus about making sure there’s gero content in all nursing programs. And I think we will see an increase in nurses with a master of science in nursing degree that specializes in gerontology.

For newcomers and mid-career professionals, what’s your best advice?

Let’s focus on what we can do to promote health and sustain quality of life for our older populations. Nursing is an art and a science. Let’s use what we know about gerontological nursing and strive to learn more about interventions that will produce positive outcomes.

Most people don’t say they want to retire to long-term care facilities. That’s an adjustment [for the elderly] and the RN can be there for the family and patient. An experienced nurse can show the new grads how to handle the drama, if you will, of the reaction of older adults to that change and the realities of when that change will be accepted by the person.

And the other piece that goes along with that is the complexity of that older adult’s health. They have chronic illnesses and the challenge is to keep those from worsening when other things are occurring.

­­Our series of question-and-answer chats features leaders in various health-care organizations and associations. Want your association leader to share their vision for the future of health care? Email your contact information to the

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About Terry Sheridan

Terry Sheridan is a New England-based freelance writer who has covered business issues for 20 years.

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