Nursing Careers in Assisted Living

As the U.S. population of those 65 and older keeps growing, the number of nursing positions in assisted living continues to increase as well. This particular population, which includes a large group of aging Baby Boomers, has more complex health needs than residents of assisted living facilities in the past. The increased complexity of care is prompting these facilities to recruit BSN-prepared RNs for the following nursing roles:

  1. Case Manager

Some assisted living facilities provide case management services. Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) provide different levels of care, including independent living,  assisted living and skilled nursing care all in one location. A case manager in a CCRC may transfer a resident from assisted living to skilled nursing care until their condition improves. For example, a resident requiring surgery or recovering from an illness may need skilled nursing care until they heal and are able to live more independently in the assisted living facility.

  1. Nurse Advocate

Nurse advocates play an important role in assisted living by linking residents and their families with the medical professionals and services they need. The complexity of the nurse advocate role usually calls for a BSN.

The primary role of a nurse advocate is to educate residents and families about:

  • Diagnoses
  • Possible care options
  • Medical care and treatments
  • Medical billing
  • Insurance benefits
  • Current healthcare practices and standards

Some other responsibilities of a nurse advocate include assessing residents’ needs when they return to assisted living after hospitalization and reviewing resident care grievances and concerns.

  1. Geriatric Nurse

Nurses who specialize in caring for the elderly can find employment in assisted living facilities. These roles often require BSN preparation for the critical thinking and assessment skills needed to monitor residents with chronic health conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, lung and heart conditions, and osteoporosis, to name a few. Assessing seniors for risk factors such as falls, polypharmacy, and poor nutritional status is also commonly done by geriatric nurses.

In addition to the physical needs of seniors, their mental health needs are an important priority for geriatric nurses to monitor due to higher rates of depression, social isolation, and loneliness.

  1. Oncology Nurse

It is common for some residents in assisted living to be facing a cancer diagnosis or dealing with the effects of cancer treatments. As a result, assisted living facilities may hire oncology nurses responsible for monitoring residents with cancer and any treatments they may be receiving on an ongoing basis. Due to the complexity of cancer diagnoses and treatment, their various effects on the body, and their impact on seniors in particular, oncology nurses require a BSN to work in this role in assisted living.

  1. Pain Management Nurse

Seniors are often taking many medications that may interact with their pain medications. Helping assisted living residents manage their pain effectively and safely is a key responsibility of a pain management nurse.

Not surprisingly, many seniors experience chronic pain due a variety of conditions that can be difficult to manage including:

  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Chronic headaches and migraines
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Nerve and spinal injuries
  • Previous injuries (such as motor vehicle accidents)
  • Stroke

Nurses in this specialty are experts in chronic pain management including complementary alternatives and various non-medicinal pain therapies. Employers prefer to hire nurses with a BSN to handle the complexity in treating and monitoring those receiving pain medications who often have other chronic health conditions as well.

America’s growing aging population, often with complex care needs, is creating career opportunities in assisted living facilities. Nurses interested in caring for this population should consider earning a BSN to gain the skills and expertise required to pursue these opportunities.

Learn more about the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN program

Sources: Services Offered by Assisted Living Communities

National Institute on Aging: Residential Facilities, Assisted Living, and Nursing Homes

Nurse Journal: 15 Great Nursing Careers in Assisted Living What Is Geriatric Nursing? What Is a Nurse Advocate? What Is a Pain Management Nurse?

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