What is Geriatric / Long Term Care Nursing?

Geriatric nursing (also known as long term care nursing) is a diversified specialty of nursing that revolves around the provision of care to patients to assist them with ongoing management of chronic illnesses and permanent disabilities. Nurses Announcements Archive Article


What is Geriatric / Long Term Care Nursing?

Geriatric / long term care nursing is a specialty that involves caring for patients who require an extended level of care due to chronic disease processes and long term disabilities. Long term care nurses manage patient care, perform various nursing skills, address changes in condition, provide interventions, and bestow physical and psychosocial support upon clients and their families.

Staff members who work at most long-term care settings refer to the patients as residents because the healthcare facility is also the place where they live.

The long term care nurse collaborates with an interdisciplinary team of professionals such as physicians, pharmacists, social workers, dieticians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, case managers, respiratory therapists, physician assistants, and other members. The interdisciplinary team is an imperative aspect of long term care as a result of the intricate web of patient issues that commonly arise in this nursing specialty.

Geriatric / long term care nurses provide care for an array of residents across the life span with multiple diseases, afflictions, disabilities and diagnoses, although much of the patient population consists of elderly individuals.

Patient Populations

Residents who have chronic disease processes such as hypothyroidism, hypertension, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus, peripheral vascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can be found in the long term care setting.

Furthermore, patients who suffer from more progressive disease processes such as osteoporosis, dementia, Lou Gehrig's disease, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, AIDS wasting complex, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis can also be found in long term care settings.

Geriatric / long term care nurses also provide care for patients with long term disability secondary to stroke (also known as cerebrovascular accident), traumatic amputations, spinal cord injuries such as quadriplegia and paraplegia, and traumatic brain injuries.

Nursing Practice / Skill Set

A floor nurse in a long term care setting may perform procedural skills such as vital sign checks, enteral tube feedings, intravenous therapy, wound care, assessments, range-of-motion exercises, medication administration, indwelling urinary catheter care, oxygen therapy, respiratory therapy, application of heat and ice, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), suture removal, ostomy care, management of stable ventilators, and tracheostomy care.

The geriatric / long term care nurse might also assist residents with activities of daily living such as grooming, feeding, oral care, dressing, toileting, incontinent care, and bathing. In addition, geriatric / long term care nurses apply adaptive equipment, document the provision of care, and educate residents and families.


People who are interested in becoming geriatric / long term care nurses will need to have satisfactorily completed a nursing program and attain nursing licensure. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) are eligible to secure employment as geriatric / long-term care nurses.

Practice Settings

Various long term care settings that utilize long term care nurses include nursing homes, group homes, assisted living facilities, nursing and rehab centers, long term acute care (LTAC) hospitals, independent living complexes, adult day care centers, skilled nursing facilities (SNF), and retirement communities.

Career Opportunities

Long term care nurses may assume various roles due to their generalized skill sets. They regularly function as bedside nurses, charge nurses, unit managers, case managers, staffing coordinators, directors of nursing services, assistant directors of nursing, house supervisors, directors of wellness, infection control nurses, wound clinicians, nurse educators, and minimum data set (MDS) coordinators.

Certification / Professional Organizations

Although certification in geriatric / long term care nursing is purely optional, keep in mind that it is desirable for those who would like to advance their careers. Registered nurses and licensed practical nurses with long term care experience are eligible to obtain professional certification. The National Association for Practical Nursing and Education Service (NAPNES) offers opportunities for certifications for LPNs, and the American Association for Long Term Care Nursing (AALTCN) presents multiple certification opportunities for RNs.

Geriatric / long term care nursing is a specialty that demands a measure of patience, a fund of knowledge, swift thinking, prudent intervention, and passion for assisting people as they grapple with chronic health problems on a routine basis.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN, CRRN is a longtime physical rehabilitation nurse who has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a Registered Nurse.

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Love this article! Will be going into my first nursing position in long term care in a few days! Really wanted to brush up on some common disease processes and skills I will be managing and performing on a daily basis. Thanks for the article!