Becoming a Gerontology Nursing Specialist
The aged population (those aged 65 and older) is growing at an exponential rate. Currently, about 1 in 8 Americans are over the age of 65, and this figure is expected to grow to 19% by 2030, meaning that 1 in 5 people in the U.S. will be seniors. As the number of elderly in our society increases, so does the need for degree-prepared nurses who understand the special circumstances and needs of this population.
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What is Gerontology?
Gerontology is the study of aging and the elderly population. It’s a specialty that focuses on the physical, cognitive, social and psychological aspects of growing older. Gerontology nurse specialists need to have a broad and expert knowledge of what it means to be elderly in today’s society. The specialist in this category has to focus on not just the physical manifestations of aging, but also the social, legal, cultural and ethical impact that aging has today on individual patients and their families.
Where Can Gerontology Nurse Specialists Work?
Gerontology nurse specialists are in demand in a variety of settings. The most obvious is the healthcare sector, where they may work as managers and front-line leaders in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and long term care facilities. Hospitals also need gerontology nurses who can deal with older patients who spend shorter stretches of time in the hospital than they would in a nursing home.
There’s also opportunity for these specialists to work as managers, nurse educators or researchers in both public and private sector organizations. Public agencies and interest groups, for example, will often hire gerontology specialists for a variety of nursing, management and even public relations jobs.
Bachelor's or Master's?
There are many bachelor’s and master’s degree programs available to nurses who wish to further their education in gerontology. Both levels of degree programs will include some study of the following core subjects:
Although their training may be quite similar to a bachelor degree holder in this field, masters-prepared gerontology specialists tend to be more highly sought after in the public sector, as advocates for special interest groups, as government employees or as researchers for various entities. Bachelor-prepared gerontology nurse specialists are more likely to find work as managers or administrators in hospitals or facilities that house the elderly. And while you may feel qualified to teach with a bachelor’s degree in this specialty, many nursing programs prefer their instructors have a masters degree.
- Physical, mental and psychosocial development changes in the elderly
- Social/public policy
- Legal issues related to aging
- Ethical issues in aging
- Financial/economic issues impacting independence
- Service delivery models
- Demographics of aging
- Diversity in aging
- Impact of aging on families, communities and society as a whole
- ultural attitudes towards aging
Choosing gerontology as your specialization requires a life-long commitment to this special population. It can be an immensely satisfying field, but it is not for the faint of heart. Working with this population means that you will not be able to “save” all of your patients. In gerontology, the focus is less on life-saving measures and more on quality of life.
Schools With Online Degree Programs In Gerontology
Kaplan is one of the largest online degree schools in the U.S., with offerings in many different specialties. It offers one online bachelor’s degree in this specialty, a BSHS Gerontology, a bachelor of health science degree focused on gerontology.
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The University of Southern California
California's public university system is a huge institution with thousands of students. It has moved into online teaching in a gradual, selective way. It's two gerontology-focused programs online are Master of Arts in Gerontology, a treatment focused degree, and a Master of Aging Services Management, a graduate degree that leans a bit more toward management and marketing.
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Ashford also offers a fully online Bachelor of Arts in Gerontology
Get information on all Ashford’s programs here
Click here if you would like to find other online gerontology degree programs
Top Online Programs In Nursing:
Indiana State University
ISU is the state university of Indiana, located in Terre Haute. It has received high ratings for many years from Princeton Review and other publications. Right now it's one of the most progressive state schools in terms of online learning, with a variety of degree progams. It's nursing program offers up to 10 hours of credit via a "professional portfolio evaluation," a mechanism through which experienced nurses can demonstrate their knowledge to receive credit in certain areas. Indiana State offers LPN to BSN and RN to BSN programs online.
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Kaplan is a large school specializing in online career training, owned by the Washington Post Company. It offers degrees in many different areas. For licensed nurses, if offers an RN to BS program, or an RN to MS "bridge" degree. Nursing master's degrees are also offered in:
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- MS Nurse Educator
- Nursing Administration
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Georgetown, located in Washington D.C., is one of the oldest and most famous private universities in the country. In the online world, it specializes in masters of science programs for nurses:
- MS Adult Gerontology
- MS Family Nurse Practitioner
- MS Nurse Educator
- MS Nurse Midwifery
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American Sentinel University
ASU is a popular choice among our readers, partly due to the great affordability of it's online RN to BSN program. RNs can enroll with no work experience, and may get credit transfer for any previous courses they have taken. American Sentinal's nursing programs have accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
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