Geriatric Nurses


Exploring this Job

You can explore your interest in nursing and in working with older people in a number of ways. Read books and visit Web sites that deal with the nursing profession. Visit to learn more about education and careers in nursing. Ask your high school counselor to help you arrange an information interview with a local nurse. Your school nurse is also someone to consult about the profession and the education required for it. Many hospitals have volunteer programs that provide the opportunity to work during the summer or on a part-time basis, escorting patients to tests, delivering flowers to patients' rooms, and doing other helpful tasks. Volunteering at a hospital will give you a lot of insight as to how hospitals work and how well you like this environment.

Organizations such as Learning for Life (, which is affiliated with the Boy Scouts, offer programs that allow young people to explore health care careers. SkillsUSA ( is a national membership organization for middle school, high school, and college students who are interested in pursuing careers in skilled service, technical, and trade careers. It offers competitions that allow young people to test their skills against others. Recent contests of interest to aspiring nurses include Basic Health Care Skills, First Aid/CPR, Health Knowledge Bowl, Medical Math, Medical Terminology, Nurse Assisting, and Practical Nursing. 

To explore how much you enjoy working with older people, volunteer at a senior center, where you may be able to sit in on a card game or teach a crafts project. Volunteer positions as well as part-time or summer jobs also may be available at a nursing home in your area. Use any opportunity you can to visit with older people in your community. You will learn a lot from being around them, and they may be just as eager to learn something from you.

The Job

Geriatric nurses focus primarily on caring for elderly patients. This care may be provided in an institution, in the home as a visiting nurse or hospice nurse, in a retirement community, in a doctor's office, in the hospital, or at wellness clinics in the community. Some geriatric nurses may also give health seminars or workshops to the elderly in the community, or they may be involved in research or pilot studies that deal with health and disease among the aging population.

Geriatric nurses can expect to perform many of the skills required of any nursing professional. And, many nurses who specialize in other types of care, with the exception of pediatrics and obstetrics, almost always find themselves caring for the elderly as well.

There are many nursing specialties under the broad umbrella of geriatric nursing, from intensive care, to emergency, to cardiac, to oncology.

Some geriatric nurses receive additional pharmacology training. This nurse has an extensive knowledge of drugs (and their effects on the elderly), and oversees the administration of medications to patients. Many state and federal laws now dictate how facilities can restrain their patients either physically or medicinally, so geriatric nurses must be aware of these laws and see that the facility abides by these rules.

Another type of geriatric nurse is a charge nurse who oversees a particular shift of nurses and aides who care for the elderly. Although all health providers are required to do a lot of paperwork to document the care they provide and patients' progress, the charge nurse and administrators are responsible for even more documentation required by HMOs, the federal government, and insurance providers.

Geriatric advanced practice nurses are nurses who have completed at least a master's degree in nursing. They use this advanced education to provide comprehensive care to elderly patients in a variety of settings.

Advancement into administration positions such as nursing home administrator or director of nursing is common for persons involved in a geriatric nursing career.