How to Become a Geriatric Staff Nurse

How to Become a Geriatric Staff Nurse

The foremost requirement for a geriatric nurse is an enjoyment of working with older people. These nurses must exhibit patience, a willingness to listen extremely carefully and to balance the needs of their individual patients with the sometimes demanding and conflicting desires of family members.

A popular preparation practice for entering a career in geriatric nursing is to volunteer at a local senior center, a nursing home or hospice, or any organization that will allow experience in working with patients who suffer mobility issues, sensory deficits such as hearing loss or impaired vision, chronic and terminal diseases and cognitive impairments.

The potential geriatric nurse should assess his or her ability to manage the physical and emotional challenges of working with patients who may never recover.

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

To become a geriatric nurse, you must first become a registered nurse (RN) by completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an accredited four-year college.

Although it is possible to become an RN by only completing an associate's program, candidates who go this route will be much less competitive than their bachelor's degree-holding peers.

The preparation timeline below provides an example curriculum for undergraduate nursing students:

Grade Level Example Courses
  • General Chemistry I & Lab
  • General Chemistry II & Lab
  • College Algebra & Statistics
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology I & Lab
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology II & Lab
  • Psychology I
  • Microbiology I & Lab
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Introduction to Professional Nursing
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Pathophysiologic Foundations of Nursing care
  • Foundations of Nursing Practice I
  • Foundations of Nursing Practice II
  • Pharmacology and Therapeutics
  • Statistics for Evidence-Based Practice
  • Nursing Management of Adults with Acute/Chronic Illness
  • Introduction to Critical Appraisal & Evidence-Based Practice
  • Nutrition for Clinical Practice
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Nursing Care of Mothers, Newborns, and Families & Clinical
  • Nursing Care of Children & Clinical
  • Ethics in Nursing and Health
  • Nursing Care of Clients with Mental Health Problems & Clinical
  • Advanced Nursing Management of Adults with Acute/Complex Health Problems & Clinical
  • Nursing Care of Older Adults & Clinical
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Community Health Nursing & Clinical
  • Advanced Clinical Problem Solving & Clinical
  • Transition into Professional Nursing Practice & Clinical
  • Introduction to Genetics & Molecular Therapeutics
  • Athletic Training Clinical III & IV
  • Remaining Requirements & Electives

2. Take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)

The NCLEX has a varying number of questions, from 75 to a possible 265, that can be answered. There will be 15 experimental questions among the total, regardless of how many were answered.

The maximum allotted time for the exam is 6 hours and no mandatory breaks are required. Testers can, however, take optional breaks after 2.5 and 3.5 hours of the exam.

The NCLEX is broken down into four primary categories under "Meeting Client Need" and eight subcategories under those:

Category Sub-category
Safe & Effective Care Environments
  • Management of Care
  • Safety and Infection Control
Health Promotion & Safety
  • Health Promotion & Safety
Psychosocial Integrity
  • Psychosocial Integrity
Physiological Integrity
  • Basic Care & Comfort
  • Pharmacological & Parenteral Therapies
  • Reduction of Risk Potential
  • Physiological Adaption

For more information on the NCLEX, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

3. Become Certified in Gerontological Nursing

Current registered nurses may pursue a certification in gerontological nursing if they've met the following criteria:

  • Currently hold an RN license in the U.S. or the equivalent from another country
  • 2 years of full-time practice experience
  • Minimum of 2,000 hours  of clinical practice in the specialty area of gerontological nursing within the last 3 years
  • Completed 30 hours of continuing education in gerontological nursing with in the last 3 years

This certification program can be applied to any time throughout the year and the test can be taken during a 90-day window, when and where ever is most convenient for the test-taker. The exam is 3.5 hours long, consisting of 175 questions, 150 of which are scored with the other 25 being pretest questions.

View Gerontological Nursing Certification Exam Outline

View Gerontological Nursing Certification Sample Questions

4. Maintain Gerontological Nursing Certification Through Continuing Education

Certain professional development requirements through the completion of continuing education units must be met in order to maintain your certification.

They must be renewed every 5 years, and renewal applications must be submitted up to 1 year before expiration. If allowed to expire, you may be ineligible to practice.

The renewal process may be completed online or by mail. There is a $350 charge for non-members, with members of the American Nurses Association paying as little as $200 and members of the National Gerontological Nursing Association pay $280.

Manage Your Certification Renewal