Why Become a Long-Term Care Nurse?

A broken bone, an unfortunate kitchen injury requiring stitches, a case of strep throat — all of these are situations healthcare professionals can resolve rather quickly. But, unfortunately, many individuals struggle with medical conditions that persist for weeks, months or years — despite treatment efforts.

In the case of the latter, long-term care nurses are highly valuable to the nursing profession. A bachelor of science in nursing degree can equip nursing professionals to care for patients with chronic conditions and long-term health problems.

What Does a Long-Term Care Nurse Do?

The main characteristic among long-term care nurses is that they tend to patients who require extended care. This type of care encompasses several medical conditions, such as:

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Age-related dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Cancer
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy

Any condition that requires consistent or frequent care could fall in the purview of a long-term care nurse’s charge. Typical duties of long-term care nurses include checking vital signs, IV therapy, wound care, administering medications, catheter/ostomy care and patient education.

While many long-term care nurses work for public health organizations, they can also perform in other settings like private assisted living communities, rehabilitation centers, cancer units and hospice providers. It’s not uncommon for some long-term care nurses to progress into leadership or management roles — especially if they’ve furthered their education as a registered nurse (RN) with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

What Characteristics Must Long-Term Care Nurses Possess?

Because long-term care nurses often deal with chronic, untreatable or terminal diseases, resilience is critical. It’s not easy to accept that your patients’ pain is not temporary. However, there is comfort in the fact that you are crucial to helping them manage and lessen that pain over time.

Long-term care nurses also need to be critical thinkers and act quickly should a patient experience an unexpected medical event. While many of these RNs work independently, they also benefit from being “team players” as part of a larger network of care professionals.

Of course, a caring and compassionate attitude is a must — towards both the patient and their family members or caregivers. Offering a listening or empathetic ear or serving as a trusted confidant can be just as valuable as the “logistical” care long-term nurses provide.

Is Long-Term Care Nursing a Lucrative Career?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects that the employment for registered nurses will grow 9% from 2020 to 2030.

With people living longer but not necessarily healthier, these nurses serve a crucial role. Chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease are on the rise, requiring more care, and thus more nurses. Even individuals dealing with a chronic condition but in relatively “good” health want to ensure they can live more productive lives. So naturally, the area of long-term care nursing will see rapid growth in demand.

Again, long-term care nurses who have earned a BSN have even more opportunities to level up their career potential. The American Association for Long-Term Care Nursing (AALTCN) offers a certification in long-term care nursing — providing nurses another opportunity to improve their employment prospects.

Salary potential is also promising for long-term care nurses. PayScale lists the national average hourly rate as $29.69 as of November 2021, and they can earn as much as $37.11 per hour.

Not every individual is fit to take on the role of a long-term care nurse. But, a career in long-term care nursing can be both personally and professionally rewarding for those who have the drive to devote their skills and knowledge to helping patients with lifelong and chronic conditions.

Learn more about University of Southern Indiana’s online RN to BSN program.

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