What does a long-term care nurse do?

Long-term care nurses provide medical care to patients that suffer from many different chronic conditions or disabilities. They address the physical and emotional needs of patients to help improve functioning and independence. Many patients reside in long-term care, assisted living, or nursing home facilities. They examine patients, obtain medical histories, monitor and chart vital signs, and report concerns to physicians. They administer medication and provide medical treatments. They also help patients with activities of daily living such as toileting, bathing, dressing, and eating. Long-term nurses often help patients engage in physical and therapeutic activities.

What kind of training does a long-term care nurse need?

Long-term care nurses must become registered nurses by completing a diploma, associate degree, or bachelor degree program in nursing. All nursing programs provide classroom and laboratory instruction and supervised clinical experiences. Prospective long-term care nurses concentrate on certain subjects such as gerontology, physical therapy, nutrition, psychology, and pharmacology. All registered nurses must become licensed by passing the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN). Long-term care nurses must complete regular continuing education to maintain their licenses, keep their skills up to date, and stay abreast on advancements in the field. Most employers provide continuing education courses, conferences, and workshops.

What are the prospects for a career as a long-term care nurse?

Employment of all registered nurses is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 23% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The aging population and rapid growth in the home health care industry will drive job growth for long-term care nurses.

Job prospects should be excellent especially for long-term care nurses with extensive experience. Many job openings will stem from the need to replace long-term care nurses that retire, transfer, or leave the profession for other reasons.

How much do long-term care nurses make?

As of December 2009, the average annual salary for long-term care nurses is $46,000; average annual long-term care nurse salaries vary greatly on location, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as a long-term care nurse is a great choice for people with a strong desire to provide care to a variety of patients in long-term care settings. Long-term care nurses must have a solid understanding of the practices and procedures of long-term healthcare. Patience, compassion, empathy, emotional stability, detail orientation, and motivation are essential characteristics. Long-term nurses must have excellent communication and the ability to help patients feel at ease. They must be able to effectively work as part of a team and make sound decisions in emergency situations.