What Is a Long-Term Care Nurse?

Long-term care nurses care for patients who have an illness or condition that requires care for an extended period of time. Often working with the elderly or patients with disability, long-term care nurses work in nursing homes, long-term care facilities and rehabilitation centers. They provide direct patient care, including monitoring and recording vital signs, administering medication and performing therapeutic treatments such as massage and range of motion exercises. Long-term care nurses also often assist patients with the tasks of their daily lives, including feeding, dressing, using the toilet and bathing.

Becoming a Long-Term Care Nurse

In order to become a long-term care nurse, students must first complete their Associate's Degree in Nursing or Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Registered nurses may then seek employment as a long-term care nurse. RNs who want to specialize in long-term care nursing may want to take additional courses in gerontology during their degree programs or even earn their Gerontological Nursing Certification, as most long-term care nurses work with the elderly.

A typical job posting for a long-term care nurse position would likely include the following qualifications, among others specific to the type of institution and patient population:

  • ADN or BSN-level education and active RN license
  • Certification in Basic Life Support and/or CPR required; Gerontological Nursing Certification a plus
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills for working with patients, caregivers and medical teams on an ongoing basis
  • Physical ability to assist in lifting, moving and transferring patients and assisting them in their daily tasks such as using the toilet, bathing and dressing

To search and apply for current long-term care nurse positions, visit our job boards.

What Are the Education Requirements for Long-Term Care Nurse?

A position as a long-term care nurse requires an ADN or BSN degree in addition to an active RN license. Generally, an advanced degree is not required for long-term care nurses, but elective courses in gerontology are particularly helpful for RNs pursuing a career in long-term care.

Are Any Certifications or Credentials Needed?

Most long-term care nursing positions require applicants to hold the Basic Life Support Certification, offered by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross. Additionally, some long-term care nurses may consider pursuing the Gerontological Nursing Certification offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, which requires nurses to hold a current RN license, to have practiced a minimum of two years full-time as an RN and have a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in the area of gerontological nursing within the previous three years.

Where Do Long-Term Care Nurses Work?

Long-term care nurses often work in settings that care for the elderly, disabled or other patients affected by chronic conditions, including nursing homes, assisted living communities or long-term care facilities. They may also work in home health care or rehabilitation centers.

What Does a Long-Term Care Nurse Do?

Long-term care nurses provide care for patients affected by illnesses, injuries or conditions that require extended care. Long-term care nurses work with a patient's full medical team to coordinate and implement a patient's plan of care, and are frequently a source of emotional support, guidance and comfort for patients and their loved ones. Depending on their place of employment and patient population, long-term care nurses may perform vital sign checks, administer medications and intravenous therapy and provide wound care. Often, long-term care nurses also assist patients with their daily tasks such as bathing, feeding, dressing and using the toilet. Long-term care nurses also perform therapeutic treatments such as massage and range-of-motion exercises.

What Are the Roles and Duties of a Long-Term Care Nurse?

  • Coordinate with a patient's full medical team to implement and evaluate a comprehensive plan of care
  • Perform vital sign checks, intravenous therapy, enteral tube feedings, wound care, respiratory therapy and/or administer medications
  • Assist patients with daily tasks such as feeding, dressing, sitting/standing, using the toilet and bathing
  • Perform therapeutic treatments such as range-of-motion exercises
  • Prepare equipment and assist physicians during patient examinations
  • Provide emotional support for patients and their loved ones and educate them about their conditions and ongoing care plan

Long-Term Care Nurse FAQs

There are two major challenges that Long-Term Care (LTC) Nurses face, and they stem from the rise in acuity of patients and associated staffing issues.

Higher acuity simply means more complex. Patients are living longer with more chronic conditions and requiring more care. This means long-term care nurses are tasked with more challenging medical patients in a setting that is not acute. While this presents challenges, it is also a great opportunity for nurses to practice and advance their nursing and time-management skills.

Piggybacking on the higher acuity challenges, LTC facilities may have only one or two doctors that are responsible for the care of patients. There are teams of clinical staff including nurses, a social worker, case manager, nursing assistants, med techs, and others to assist with patients. However, due to the complexity of some patients, the time it takes to complete patient care is higher and spreads staff thin.

Both of these challenges can be improved. Staffing changes to account for acuity of patients has been practiced and implemented in many facilities. The previous model was based on numbers rather than acuity. These updates have improved patient and employee satisfaction, ensuring the nurses have adequate support and time for their patients.

Long-Term Care Nurse Salary & Employment

Long-term care nurses can expect a median salary of around $67,493, with a range of $52,541 – $82,155. Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 16 percent from 2014 to 2024 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics due in large part to an aging population in need of care. Given that long-term care nurses play a large role in the care of this patient group, an increase in long-term care employment opportunities is also expected.

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