Long-term care nurses provide care to patients who need support over an extended period of time. From caring for the elderly to those with chronic medical conditions – it’s a diverse field that offers the opportunity to work in various environments. What’s more, these nurses are in demand across the US as healthcare providers struggle to fill roles.
Short answer, working in a nursing home as an LPN or RN can be an enriching career path.
- You get to know patients and their families while providing life-saving medical care.
- Develop strong nursing skills while taking care of very sick patients and stable long-term residents.
- The perfect blend of patients, including ortho, cardiac, nephrology, and more
- Various levels of acuity for the patients depending on the nursing home.
Could working in a nursing home be the next step in your nursing career?
What qualifications do they need as a long-term care nurse?
Nurses who want to work in a nursing home need a degree in nursing. There are multiple levels of degrees for nurses, such as licensed practical nurse (LPN), Registered nurse (RN), bachelor’s degree (BSN), and advanced practice registered nurse practitioner.
Long-Term Care Nurses need to complete a higher- education qualification in nursing. Education level will be an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (AND) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in the US. Some nurses require an advanced degree (master’s degree).
Nursing assistants have special programs that prepare people to work in this role in a much shorter period with fewer medical responsibilities.
Some nurses come to the United States to work in nursing homes on a visa. These internationally prepared nurses need to show their qualifications before working in the US.
National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN) to prove their qualifications. There are great books on amazon that can explain the NCLEX process and test questions.
Most facilities do not require specialized training or lots of experience before starting a job in a nursing home. Nursing supervisors and APRN’s who have experience usually do very well in this setting. These roles tend to advance quickly into leadership positions.
What are nonmedical things I will need to learn to become a long-term care nurse?
Healing people with sickness and caring for those who are suffering are reasons people become a nurse. However, little things such as communication, compassion, and empathy can make you a great nurse.
Or was it to make a living so that you could provide for your family? No matter the reason, you will need to have particular abilities and knowledge to prepare you to succeed.
You will need to be able to talk to all types of people. You will be talking with patients, families, medical providers, and more. When working in this setting, ask yourself if you like talking with people and getting to know them.
The patients are often transitioned to long-term stays in the nursing home. Once a patient transitions to the long-term side of the nursing home, they will become permanent residents of the home. You will spend more time with them and their families, hopefully developing friendships over time.
Attention to Detail
Long-term care nurses are often the first line of defense for patients. Being able to notice the small changes that could be red flags for more significant problems is vital.
Patients can be under long-term care for years, and connecting with patients, families, and healthcare professionals within a long-term setting is crucial.
Knowing how to speak with doctors, other nurses, and staff will be something you use daily.
For many patients with chronic or long-term conditions, the best kind of care is preventative. Understanding how factors like diet can impact a person living with a chronic illness can help nurses provide better care.
Experience in End of Life Care
A crucial part of long-term care nursing is supporting patients moving towards the end of their lives. Experience in this area allows nurses to help people live their last moments with dignity and kindness.
What will my work environment be like?
As a long-term care nurse, you may work with a variety of unique patients. But all will share a need for specialist care that is provided over a long period. You should expect to work with a variety of patients with multiple conditions.
There will be stressful times, especially since Covid 19 has created a new layer of complexity. You may find times that you need to get “geared up” with PPE for patients with Covid-19 or on quarantine. However, the majority of your patient will be standard precautions.
Most of the patients have received the covid 19 vaccine, so it has become a safer area of healthcare to work.
You will work with many other staff types such as doctors, nurses, CNA’s, unit clerks, physical therapists, dietary, and more. You will be exposed to a wide array of healthcare specialists.
Types of Patients Nurses Work within a Nursing Home
Elderly Men and Women:
Older patients are a key group in long-term care, and experience or interest in working with the elderly can be helpful for nurses. You will also need to work well with both men and women.
Long-term physically or mentally disabled patients may require specialist care in dedicated facilities. Sometimes the disability is too significant for the family to provide care in the home. They may also not have any support at home and need 24-hour care.
Patients who have been through traumatic injury or have conditions that prevent them from living independently may require long-term care nursing support.
Patient with Cognitive Deficiencies
These could be patients with mental health issues such as severe dementia, schizophrenia, and more. Multiple psychiatric illnesses can lead to permanent disabilities.
What type of long-term care facilities can nurses work in?
The variety of long-term care facilities is wide and provides patient care for multiple conditions. These are some of the most common facilities you are likely to come across in the USA.
Residential Long-Term Residences
These facilities combine both assisted living and healthcare facilities. There will be varying levels of care provided by these residences and sometimes will not require a nurse.
Some of the more specialized long-term residences for special needs individuals require more medical support.
There are long-term residences that take insurance for payment and others that are private pay only.
Assisted Living Facilities (ALF)
In the US, ALFs are care facilities dedicated to supporting older people or people living with disabilities that require regular, day-to-day assistance but not 24-hour care.
The level of care provided is usually “ala Cart” style and pay for the services you need. Some residents will not require any nursing care, while others will need medication management and nursing support.
Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF)
These are the more traditional nursing homes that provide essential care to residents. These times of facilities employ various types and multiple nurses to help provide care to their patients.
There are various “levels” of skilled nursing, but all will provide essential nursing services for patients with varying complexity.
Long-term care nurses may also work in a residential setting or within rehab facilities.
How do I find work as a long-term care nurse?
These are just some of the ways you can begin to search for your dream long-term care nursing job. There is a path of least resistance which is the online search.
Online Search for a Nursing Position in Long Term Care Setting
Most nurses looking for work in the nursing home long-term care setting are done via online searches. Many job boards have listings for nursing jobs, including ZipRecruiter, InDeed.com, SimplyHired.com, and more.
Using a Recruiter to Get A New Nursing Job
Many recruiters have listings on their sites and will assist you at no charge to the candidate. They have agreements with nursing homes to help them place nurses. Using a recruiter can be especially helpful if you have specific criteria for a job and need a recruiter to help you screen jobs.
Linkedin for Letting Others Know you Need Help
Linkedin.com is a business networking site with its own job board and can help you find a position by letting your “network” know you are looking for a job as a nurse. The more people you are connected to on the site, the better your chances of getting help from someone in your network.
Using Word of Mouth to Get Hired
One of the easiest and most effective ways to get your dream job in a nursing home is to ask around. Talk to other nurses working in the field. Maybe they can refer you to a hiring manager. They may be able to tell you the positives and negatives of working for a particular home.
Plus, having someone to refer you usually helps develop a smooth interview between you and the hiring manager. You will need to spend less time developing respect and more time talking about what the position offers.
Should I work for a staffing company before getting a permanent position in a nursing home?
There are thousands of staffing companies willing to hire medical professionals to work in the nursing home setting. However, most require its staff to have some experience working in the long-term care setting.
Working as a nursing home nurse is a specialty, and it would be very challenging for someone with no experience. Therefore, we recommend first working for a nursing home then transitioning to a staffing company such as Highland Medical Staffing.
This way, you will be prepared for the role and not feel overwhelmed in your new role.
When you are ready to start working with a staffing agency, if you live in Connecticut, reach out to Highland Caregivers. They staff nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout Connecticut.
What are the benefits of working in a nursing home?
Finding the right nursing home is about more than finding a place to make money. It’s about finding a job/career that will support you and go the extra mile to help your career.
You want a long-term care facility that will help you grow personally and professionally. Many homes offer their staff benefits other than cash, such as:
Advancement Within the Ranks
Working in the nursing home provides opportunities to get into leadership roles such as supervisor, assistant director of nurses, or nursing director. There are also specialty roles such as infection control nurse and wound care nurse.
Most medical fields and specialties take forever to advance up the company ladder. There is less turnover in management roles in the hospital setting compared to nursing homes. This doesn’t mean that one is better than the other.
I have seen many people start as certified nurse assistants, then LPN, bridge to registered nurses. Once they are a registered nurse, they move into management positions. A few went on to become Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioners.
Sometimes it’s the fear of advancement to holds us back which is why you should educate yourself in advancement. Here is a quick read from amazon on how to transition into a professional leadership role.
Continuous Professional Development
Many of the best nurses working in the long-term industry started as certified nursing assistants or nonnursing roles in the nursing home. The people working in the facility help foster a culture of education and growth.
Some even provided funding for advanced schooling to allow them to afford further education. There may be opportunities for certifications such as wound care certification.
Many nurses are looking for companies to help them during challenging times, such as family problems, illness, or working during a covid pandemic. They don’t want a company looking for a nurse to fill a role.
There are many ways to determine what it takes to become a registered nurse in the US. However, you only need to be certified and licensed for the position you are applying for. The majority of nursing homes in the United States will provide training to prepare you for your new career.
Working in a nursing home can lead to a lasting career move. The most successful nursing homes find positions for nurses to grow. This could be done by working with scheduling to allow time for schooling.
There is an ongoing shortage of nurses willing to take care of the elderly population. Not only that, but there are a large number of nurses looking to leave the workforce.
According to LinkedIn, as of February 2021, registered nursing was the fifth-most in-demand job in the American workforce.
Working in a nursing home will help fill the staffing gap while providing care to your residents.
Working as a nursing home nurse can be a rewarding experience if you have the proper support and structure. You will make friends and develop skills that will carry over into other areas in healthcare.
If you decide to work in a nursing home, you will make a positive difference in patients’ lives.
The 2021 American Nursing Shortage: A Data Study. 2021.
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. Retrieved September 4, 2021, from https://www.usa.edu/blog/nursing-shortage/
Journal of Aging and Long-Term Care –https://agingandlongtermcare.com
Long Term Care Nurses Association – https://www.ltcna.org
National Association for the Support of Long Term Care – https://www.nasl.org
Mike Irvine, LinkedIn Talent Blog, “The Most In-Demand Jobs Right Now,” March 15, 2021: https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/trends-and-research/2020/most-in-demand-jobs [↩]
National Gerontological Nursing Association –https://www.omicsonline.org/societies/national -gerontological-nursing-association-ngna