Long Term Care Nurse

Long Term Care Nurse Job Description
A long term care nurse works in a nursing home, rest home, skilled nursing facility (SNF), or a convalescent home. These residences are where the elderly and people with physical and mental disabilities live. Sometimes the residents are in the nursing home temporarily while they recover from surgery or an illness. Many people confuse long term care (LTC) and long term acute care (LTAC) because the names are so similar. An LTAC unit requires more skills than an LTC nursing home. LTACs are for people who need extended complex care beyond the hospital. The patient may be on a ventilator, need complex wound care, need IV therapy through a central venous catheter, and cardiac monitoring on an LTAC unit. An LTAC is similar to a step-down unit.

What does a long term care nurse do?
The nurse who works in a long term care facility can be either an LPN or an RN. Most of the patients they will care for are elderly and are there because they can no longer live at home safely. The resident may have ambulation difficulties and need a walker or wheelchair to get around. Many have dementia and are confused.

The nurse will care for more residents than a nurse working in a hospital. Sometimes a complete hall is assigned to the nurse and most of her or his time is spent passing medications. The nurse will push a medication (med) cart down the hall from room to room; making sure medications are dispensed on time. Overseeing nurses aids and making sure the residents are cared for in a compassionate manner is part of the job. The nurse will also work with the therapy department in coordinating care. Since the facility is the residents’ home, the nurse will get to know them well.

The shifts are commonly 8 hours, but 12 hour shifts are available in some facilities. Working weekends and holidays are required.

No special type of education is needed to begin working in a nursing home other than an LPN or RN degree. The nurse will be trained during the orientation period in skills specific to the unit they will be working on. If a management position is desired, the nurse will typically need to be an RN. A gerontology degree can help the nurse who is interested in management.

Nurses who work in this area typically make less than a nurse in a hospital. Depending on the state and city, the nurse can expect to make between $16 to $30 per hour, depending on experience and position. When the nurse is required to be the charge nurse for a shift, a shift differential is commonly seen.

Job Outlook
With the population aging, needs in this area is expected to grow. It is not uncommon to see a high turnover rate in the staff. Employment of RNs in all areas is expected to increase over the next several years.

Similar Types of Nurses
Similar types of nurses are seen in homecare, where the client is in their home but need wound care, IVs, and teaching regarding new diagnosis. Nurses in physicians’ offices and clinics are similar, but the nurse does not have to juggle as many patients.