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Gerontological Nursing: Caring for Older Adults

Gerontological nurses help elderly patients with a variety of medical needs. As the number of older adults in America increases, the need for this type of specialized nursing care grows.

Growing Need for Gerontological Nurses

According to the National Administration on Aging, as of 2014, the older population (defined as those age 65 and older) represents 14.5 percent of Americans. The AoA expects this number to increase to 21.7 percent by 2040. This growth will require a large number of highly trained professionals in gerontological nursing.

Nursing Older Adults

Though most nurses will inevitably care for older adults during their general course of practice, some nurses choose to specialize in this area of care — some through an online RN to BSN program. However, according to the American Health Care Association, two-thirds of nurses in America have no gerontology training, and only 1 percent of the approximately 2.2 million registered nurses specialize in caring for older adults.

This increasing number of elderly patients means medical professionals can expect a rise in the number of acute and chronic health conditions. The National Gerontological Nursing Society states these nurses meet the biological and spiritual needs of an increasingly diverse aging population. Since people are living longer, their medical conditions are becoming more complex, and the need for specialists in gerontological nursing increases.

Disease Prevention and Promoting Positive Aging

According to the website, nurses trained in gerontological nursing help patients and their families understand the aging process and how preventative care can make a difference in their quality of life. Further, according to the American Health Care Association, these specialized nurses also learn to recognize signs of elder abuse — a problem that may increase when family members become stressed or overworked as caregivers.

Many older adults are at greater risk of injuries from falls and for diseases like Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, cancer and others. Gerontological nurses will diagnose illnesses and diseases, prescribe medicine and therapy, order lab tests and conduct routine screenings and checkups.

According to Nurse Journal, gerontological nursing professionals practice in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospital geriatric units, nursing homes, continuing care communities and hospice.

Education and Job Outlook

An online RN to BSN program that includes coursework specific to this discipline prepares nurses to care for the aging population. Nurses with this specialized training may receive greater recognition and respect from peers and supervisors. They will have the critical thinking, problem-solving skills and experience necessary to provide the best level of care for their patients.

In the last decade, many nursing programs have started offering courses in gerontology. Some of these include coursework in end-of-life care, pharmacology for older adults and diversity among older adults.

It is clear from the growing number of older adults that the need for professionals in gerontological nursing is great, and those who choose to go into this field will be in demand for years to come.

Learn more about the UNCW online RN to BSN program.


Retrieved from Administration on Aging: Aging Statistics. (n.d.).

Retrieved from Caring for an Aging America: A Guide for Nursing Faculty. (2006, March).

Retrieved from Geriatric Nurse. (n.d.).

Retrieved from Geriatric Nurse Careers & Salary Outlook. (n.d.).

Retrieved from National Gerontological Nursing Association. (n.d.).

Retrieved from Who—what—why—when—where—and how RNs get the highly respected credential RN-BC: Board-Certified in Gerontological Nursing. (n.d.).

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