Geriatric Nurse Practitioner

What is a geriatric nurse practitioner?

The nurse practitioner profession is relatively new and was initially developed in the mid 1960’s in order to satisfy the growing need for advanced practice nurses, particularly those trained to handle specialized roles. In essence, nurse practitioners bridge the gap between registered nurses (RNs) and medical doctors (MDs). In recent decades the nurse practitioner profession has continuously sought definition in regards to scope of practice and is now regulated through national certification by professional organizations and advance practice nurse licensure granted by state nursing boards.

According to the Gerontological Advance Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA), GNPs are advanced practice nurses with specialized nurse practitioner education in the diagnosis, treatment and management of acute and chronic conditions generally associated with aging and often found among older adults.

What education is required to become a geriatric nurse practitioner?

Although registered nurses are only required to earn an undergraduate degree to practice, geriatric nurse practitioners must attain a graduate degree at the master’s or post-master’s level of education. However, GNPs are encouraged to eventually earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree because, according to the Gerontological Advance Practice Nurses Association, the DNP degree better reflects current clinical competencies and better prepares graduates for changes anticipated within the health care system.

Aspiring geriatric nurse practitioners interested in enrolling in graduate degree programs can either find them available through onsite colleges and universities or through online schools. Right now there are over a hundred different geriatric nurse practitioner programs located throughout the United States. These GAPNA-approved programs are offered in the following states: AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MD, LA, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NE, NV, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, and WI.

Students that do not reside in these states or who just simply prefer the convenience of online learning can take advantage of the many great distance learning or online programs that result in degrees for geriatric nurse practitioners. Some examples of the degrees and certificates awarded by these online programs include: Doctor of Nursing Practice in Geriatric Nurse Practitioner, Master of Science in Gerontology, Gerontology Health Care Certificate, Master of Arts in Gerontology, and Geriatric Care Management Certificate.

How do geriatric nurse practitioners become nationally certified?

One of the great milestones in a geriatric nurse practitioner’s career is gaining national certification. Right now, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), in accordance with the professional standards set forth by the American Nurses Association (ANA), has created a written examination that thoroughly tests a geriatric nurse practitioner’s level of educational and clinical competency prior to employment.

Before a geriatric nurse practitioner is permitted to sit for the examination, several eligibility criteria must be completed. First, all geriatric nurse practitioners must be state licensed as registered nurses. In addition, the ANCC requires all candidates to be graduates of geriatric nurse practitioner programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNA).  These nurse practitioner programs must result in a master’s degree, post-master’s certificate or doctorate degree. Educational programs must have presented students with courses in pathophysiology, health assessment, and pharmacology as well as content pertaining to disease management and prevention, diagnosis, and health promotion.

Once these eligibility conditions have been met, geriatric nurse practitioners may qualify for ANCC examination. National certification is granted upon successfully passing this competency examination, and certification renewal is mandated every five years.

What is the employment outlook for geriatric nurse practitioners?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (US BLS), nursing professionals are expected to benefit from a 22% increase in employment between 2008 and 2018. Nurse practitioners are predicted to be in particularly high demand throughout inner cities and more rural areas of the country as these are often medically underserved locales.

Geriatric nurse practitioners will continue to experience growing career opportunities as a result of a large aging population. Presently, the US BLS reports that the industries that are employing the highest numbers of nurses include: general medical and surgical hospitals, offices of physicians, home health care services, nursing care facilities, and outpatient care centers. Furthermore, the states with the highest concentration of employed nurses are South Dakota, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and Delaware.

What is the salary outlook for geriatric nurse practitioners?

Along with employment growth, geriatric nurse practitioners can also anticipate rising salary averages. In fact, the 2009 National Salary and Workplace Survey for Nurse Practitioners reported that the average annual salary for nurse practitioners rose from $81,397 in 2007 to $89,579 in 2009, which equates to a 10% increase in salary.

Individual salaries and wages can be greatly influenced by an employee’s level of experience and education. Industry of employment and location can also impact salaries. The US BLS lists the top paying industries for nursing occupations as follows: medical equipment and supplies manufacturing, federal executive branch, as well as civic and social organizations. The top paying states for geriatric nursing professionals include: California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Maryland, and New Jersey.  

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