How to Become a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (GNP)

You’ve always liked helping people, but you especially connect with the older population. In your journey figuring out your next career move, you’ve considered becoming a nurse for senior citizens, also known as a gerontological nurse practitioner (GNP) or a geriatric nurse practitioner.

However, you aren’t exactly sure how to become a geriatric nurse practitioner, and you want to research the kind of commitment it’ll take before you dive into this profession. Learning about this field, the educational requirements and salary you can expect will help you make your decision on whether or not you want to work as a gerontology nurse practitioner.

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  • Preparation to pursue certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner
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Earn an MS in Nursing online from Georgetown University.

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  • Choose from one of four APRN specialty areas: AG-ACNP, FNP, NM/WHNP, or WHNP
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  • Four program options: PCFNP, PMHNP, AGACNP, AGPCNP

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1 U.S. News & World Report, 2022 Best Nursing Schools: Master’s. Ranked in 2021.

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Steps to Become Gerontological Nurse Practitioner

When researching how to become a geriatric nurse practitioner, you should consider the following steps:

Step 1: Apply for and Earn an Undergraduate Degree in Nursing

You may likely need to pursue an undergraduate degree in nursing so you can become a registered nurse (RN). You’ll need a bachelor’s as well as your RN before you can be a gerontological nurse practitioner. You will learn in the classroom as well as through supervised clinical experience.

Step 2: Apply for and Earn Your RN License 

Following graduation, you’ll take a test, the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for registered nurses, to become an RN. You need to pass this test as well as any other state requirements for licensure.

Step 3: Work with Geriatric Patients 

Before applying to graduate school, find a job where you can gain experience with the senior population. Often nurse practitioner degrees will require clinical hours, so hands-on experience is recommended.

Step 4: Earn Your Master’s Degree in Nursing 

You need to then enroll in an accredited gerontology nurse practitioner program, which is typically a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). These programs are in-person and online and have different application requirements, such as a minimum GPA and letters of recommendation. The program will take one to three years, depending on whether you’re a full-time or part-time student.

Step 5: Get Certified

After graduation, you may be qualified to take the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s certification test. You will also need at least 500 hours of supervised clinical experience for the adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner certification.

Paths to Become a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner

There are several pathways to become an adult gerontology nurse practitioner. Once you have completed an undergraduate degree or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), here are some potential educational journeys you can embark on:

Master’s in Nursing MSN 

A Master of Science in Nursing, or MSN, is required to become a geriatric nurse practitioner. In this program, you will complete coursework in gerontology. This could take several years, but if you’re limited on time, you can find an accelerated online MSN program in gerontology to earn the degree quickly.

Post-Grad Certificate

A post-grad certificate, also called a post-master’s certificate, is a certificate you earn upon graduation from an MSN program. It is not required. This sort of program is beneficial if you did not specialize in gerontology in your MSN program and want to qualify for the requisite certifications. You can find post-grad certificate programs online.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) 

A Doctor of Nursing Practice program typically comes after a master’s program. Earning your DNP may help prepare you for more advanced or leadership positions. A doctor of nursing, also known as a DNP, will take two to five years, and a student can complete an online DNP program, in person or a hybrid of both.

BSN to DNP

If you know you want to earn your doctor of nursing, you can go directly into a BSN-to-DNP program, which will take you from earning your BSN to completing your DNP degree. The length of these programs varies, but they usually take two to six years, depending on whether you’re full-time or part-time. You can complete these programs online, in person or in a hybrid environment.

Career Paths for a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner

There are various career paths you can take to become a gerontological nurse practitioner. It all depends on what you want to specialize in and what kind of setting you’d like to work in. Your career options include the following:

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)

An AGNP is an advanced practice nurse who serves adolescents, adults and seniors. They differ from a GNP because a GNP solely focuses on the elderly. You can become an acute, primary or clinical adult gerontology nurse practitioner.

  • An acute AGNP will focus on critical care, oncology, the emergency department or cardiopulmonary and work in inpatient hospitals, specialty labs and intensive care units. 
  • A primary care AGNP will typically not specialize but work in private practices and VA facilities and on college campuses. 
  • Clinical AGNPs will work in clinical settings like urgent care clinics, nursing homes and community clinics.

How to Become an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner 

Common steps to become an AGNP may include:

  1. Earn your BSN: You need to go to an undergraduate program and earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
  2. Become a licensed RN: Then, you have to become a licensed RN upon graduating and taking licensing exams.
  3. Earn your MSN through an AGNP program: You need to complete courses in an AGNP program and graduate with coursework and supervised clinical experience.
  4. Earn your state licensure to be an AGNP: Your state will have requirements to earn your licensure to practice as an AGNP.
  5. Earn your American Nurses Credentialing Center board certification: In addition to state licensure, you’ll need to take and pass American Nurses Credentialing Center board certification.

Geriatric Nurse Practitioner 

A geriatric nurse practitioner is a nurse who provides care for elderly patients. They will give patients physicals, diagnose and come up with care plans and provide prescriptions. They work in acute care, ambulatory care, private homes, private practices and in long-term care. They are also called gerontological nurse practitioners. 

GNPs will take into consideration the effect that common senior illnesses like dementia and depression contribute to overall health, and typically treat seniors who fall, experience incontinence, are dehydrated and have physiological dysfunctions. They treat seniors of all ages, from those in their 60s to those in their 90s and beyond.

How to Become a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner

Common steps to become a geriatric nurse practitioner may include: 

  1. Get your undergraduate degree in nursing: You’ll need to attend a four-year program and obtain your BSN, or Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
  2. Obtain your RN license: You’ll have to take the test to become an RN.
  3. Gain work experience: To demonstrate your interest in geriatric nursing to your future master’s program, as well as figure out if this is something you really want to do, you should gain experience working in gerontology.
  4. Earn your master’s degree: Once you have your RN license, you can apply to a geriatric nurse practitioner master’s program. Work experience and a minimum GPA may be required. 
  5. Get certification: With a minimum of 500 clinical hours, you’ll need to take and pass your American Nurses Credentialing Center’s certification tests as well as any other state requirements to practice as a GNP.

What is a Gerontology Nurse Practitioner?

A gerontology nurse practitioner is a nurse who works with the senior population. It differs from a nurse practitioner, who works with all populations. A GNP will work in a variety of settings including hospitals, nursing homes, private homes, private practices and schools, and come up with treatment plans for their patients and treat common ailments seniors experience.

Should I become a Gerontology Nurse Practitioner?

You may find that becoming a geriatric nurse practitioner is a fulfilling career. GNPs make a difference by helping seniors heal and lead healthier lives. And demand for NPs is strong because of the aging baby boomer population

Salary 

By 2034, it’s projected there will be more older adults than children under the age of 18. This could lead to increased need for GNPs and higher spending on nurses in this specialty. The median annual wage for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners was $115,800 in May 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports.Here are the average salaries for nurse practitioners in the five states, as of May 2019, where their pay is highest. Keep in mind that your salary may be different depending on your education, work experience, demand in your state and the setting in which you work.

StateSalary
California$138,660
Ohio$103,780
Texas$115,440
Florida$101,510
New York$122,550

The salary for a nurse will also be higher in states with higher costs of living. If you want to increase your salary, you can earn a higher degree, which would be a Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP.

Roles and Responsibilities 

As a gerontological nurse practitioner, you will complete physical examinations for patients, diagnose any illnesses, give them a treatment plan and prescribe medicine. You will follow up to ensure your treatment plan is working and, if not, you will come up with a new course for them. Typically, you’ll deal with common senior issues like falling, dementia, constipation and dehydration, and determine ways to ensure seniors have the highest quality of life possible.

Sponsored Online Nursing Programs

Sponsored

Earn a Master of Science in Nursing online from Simmons University.

  • Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Preparation to pursue certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Part-time, full-time, and extended plans of study

Earn an MS in Nursing online from Georgetown University.

  • Earn your MS in Nursing in as few as 23 months
  • Choose from one of four APRN specialty areas: AG-ACNP, FNP, NM/WHNP, or WHNP
  • Gain hands-on clinical experience in evidence-based practice

Earn an M.S. in Nursing online at the Wegmans School of Nursing

  • The Wegmans School of Nursing is ranked among the top 100 nursing schools nationally, and is No. 6 in New York state1
  • Part-time and accelerated tracks available
  • Four program options: PCFNP, PMHNP, AGACNP, AGPCNP

Earn your MSN online from USC’s Top-Ranked School of Social Work.

  • Prepares RNs to pursue board certification as family nurse practitioners
  • Earn a CCNE-accredited MSN in as few as 21 months
  • Choose from part-time and full-time study options

1 U.S. News & World Report, 2022 Best Nursing Schools: Master’s. Ranked in 2021.

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Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (GNP) Certifications 

There are different nursing certifications you need to earn as a GNP. They include the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGACNP-BC) and the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification – Adult Gerontology (ACNPC-AG). For the most up-to-date information on these certifications, be sure to check with the related organization.

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGACNP-BC), from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC):

  • Eligibility requirements: You must have an active RN license and a master’s degree or a doctor of nursing in an approved adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program to be eligible to earn this certification.
  • Fees: The fees are $295 for American Nurses Association members, $395 for non-members and $340 for the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
  • Renewal information: You must recertify every five years. Fees for recertification are $275 for American Nurses Association members, $375 for non-members and $295 for the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Certification information from the ANCC was last retrieved in September 2020.

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification – Adult Gerontology (ACNPC-AG), from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN): 

  • Eligibility requirements: You must have an active RN license and a master’s degree or a doctor of nursing in an approved acute care nurse practitioner program to be eligible to earn this certification.
  • Fees: The fees are $255 for AACN members and $360 for non-members.
  • Renewal information: You can renew your certification by taking the exam again or by earning 150 continuing education points provided by the AACN CE Point Program. You will be charged $120 for AACN members or $220 for nonmembers.

Certification information from the AACN was last retrieved in September 2020.

Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (GNP) Resources 

When becoming a gerontological nurse practitioner, or if you’re already a GNP, you can join organizations to further your professional development and meet your fellow GNPs. Some organizations you may want to join include:

Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA): This organization, founded in 1981, provides professional conferences for advanced practice nurses who care for seniors. They also provide continuing education for nurses and educate consumers on issues related to aging.

American Assisted Living Nurses Association (AALNA): AALNA is for nurses who work in assisted living facilities. This organization provides certification and professional development for nurses in different chapters in states like Florida, Arizona, Texas and New Jersey.

The Long Term Care Nurses Association (LTCNA): LTCNA is comprised of nurses working in long-term care facilities and provides them with professional development, career advancement and networking opportunities. It also focuses on resident advocacy and public relations.

You may not want to become a geriatric nurse practitioner. Instead, you can work in a related nurse practitioner career. Some possible careers include:

  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP): To become an acute care nurse practitioner, you must earn your BSN and have an RN license. You then need to enroll in a Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) program.
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP): To become a family nurse practitioner, where you provide family-focused healthcare, you need a BSN, an RN license, a Master of Science in Nursing from an on-campus or online FNP program and clinical experience.
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP): If you want to work with children, you can become a pediatric NP by getting your BSN, MSN and your RN licensure. You can do this all online or on campus. 
  • Psychiatric mental health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP): To become a psychiatric mental health NP, you must obtain your BSN, have an active RN license and earn an MSN online or on campus.
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP): If you want to focus on care for women, you can become a women’s health NP by earning your BSN, becoming a registered nurse and going to a WHNP program. 

Nurse Practitioner: To become a nurse practitioner, you need to complete an on-campus or online nurse practitioner program. This is different from a nurse educator. While NPs practice in a variety of settings to provide care, a nurse educator trains and educates nurses in classroom and clinical settings. Both can specialize in areas like women’s health, pediatrics, acute care and mental care.

FAQs

What does a Gerontology Nurse Practitioner do? 

A gerontology nurse practitioner provides care to the older adult population by performing exams, diagnosing conditions and giving out prescriptions to treat illnesses.

Where does a Gerontology Nurse Practitioner work?

A GNP works in different settings like hospitals, long-term care facilities and private homes. In hospitals, they may see rotating patients with emergency needs, while they will take care of patients with ongoing illnesses in long-term facilities and provide more personalized care/end of life care in private homes.

How long does it take to be a geriatric nurse?

It can take several years to become a geriatric nurse. If you’re just starting out, you will need to earn your BSN in four years and then earn your MSN in two to five years. This could all take longer if you’re only enrolled in college part-time.

What is the difference between an AGNP vs FNP? 

An AGNP, or adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, is a nurse who treats adolescents, adults and older adults. A family nurse practitioner focuses on children, adolescents and adults and works in primary care. An FNP will treat children starting from the time of infancy, while an AGNP will treat adolescents starting from age 13. They both require an MSN to practice.

What is the difference between an AG-ACNP vs AG-PCNP? 

Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AG-ACNPs) and adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners (AG-PCNPs) are both acute care nurse practitioners. They both treat adults from adolescence through old age but work in different settings. For example, an AG-ACNP will work in inpatient hospitals, specialty labs and emergency departments, while AG-PCNPs will work in prisons, rehab centers and VA facilities. The former specializes in critical care, emergency department/trauma, oncology and cardiopulmonary, while the latter typically does not specialize.

Information on this page was last retrieved in September 2020.