DNP Career Paths That Involve Caring for Elderly Patients

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an elderly patient standing using a zimmer frame

People are living longer than ever before. As life expectancies increase, the need to address people’s health has also grown. This need will likely have a profound impact on the health care industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 31 percent growth in the employment of nurse practitioners between 2016 and 2026, which is substantially higher than the 7 percent growth predicted for the average job during that time frame. This is good news for students pursuing an advanced degree, such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice. However, it’s important for those entering the nursing field, particularly those interested in providing care for the elderly, to have a firm grasp on the types of career opportunities that may await them once they attain their degrees.

DNP Programs at a Glance

Understanding the types of career paths available to DNP graduates begins with knowing what typical DNP programs cover. In general, there are two types of programs: The first concentrates on research and emphasizes scientific methodologies and content. The second emphasizes the use of forward-thinking health care principles to create solutions that deliver high-quality care and improve patient outcomes.

While research-based curricula deal with the theoretical aspects of nursing, practice-driven curricula commonly take a hands-on approach by immersing students in clinical environments. This enables students to apply their learning in a real-world setting, one that allows them to fine-tune their care delivery strategies with a minimal impact on patients. Completion of this particular type of curriculum may equip students with the confidence needed to apply the health care industry’s ever-evolving care principles to their positions.

DNP Specializations

It’s common to find several concentrations in a DNP program. These concentrations share a few core classes that allow students to develop strengths that universally apply to advanced nursing, such as communication, interpersonal, and leadership skills. The concentration-specific coursework allows students to gain knowledge in an advanced nursing subject. Concentrations can include certified nurse-midwife (CNM), certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), and adult-gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP).

Those interested in elder care may gravitate toward the AGNP concentration, which can entail diagnosing and treating acutely ill elderly patients for a wide variety of medical ailments. AGNPs may also work with the elderly to create proactive health management solutions that encourage healthy living, manage chronic conditions, and minimize the threat of certain diseases. In some cases, AGNPs focus on a specific health care category, such as oncology, cardiopulmonary care, or emergency care.

Career Opportunities in Geriatrics

AGNPs can apply their knowledge in a wide variety of settings, such as emergency rooms, ICUs, clinics, and mobile care centers. They may even be able to work in a classroom, teaching future AGNPs how to make a positive impact in the health care industry. In other words, the flexibility of this specialization can lead to several potential career paths, all of which stem from the fundamental principle of delivering high-quality care.

Graduates entering the advanced nursing field are generally required to have a state-issued license to practice. The steps to attain this license vary from state to state, and students can contact their state’s board of nursing for specific requirements.

Nursing Home Administrator

Nursing home administrators oversee the fundamental operations of a nursing home facility, such as planning, directing, and coordinating health services. The nature of the role requires them to stay abreast of various changes in laws and regulations pertaining to nursing home care so they can make sure the facilities they manage stay compliant. In some cases, they are responsible for managing a specific area in the facility. While the role doesn’t require certification, many jobs in this field require years of experience in roles that do. According to the BLS, the 2017 median pay for the position is roughly $98,000.

Chief Nursing Officer

Chief nursing officers (CNOs) oversee a health organization from an executive level. They monitor every aspect of a clinic’s nursing environment to ensure the delivery of high-quality care. While CNOs possess extensive clinical and nursing skills, they often take on an advisory role, working with senior management to facilitate components of the nursing profession apart from care delivery. Their responsibilities may include managing nursing budgets, conducting performance evaluations, and representing nurses at facility board meetings. This position requires years of experience in fields that commonly require certification. According to PayScale, the average CNO salary is around $126,000.

Nurse Research Specialist

Those who take on the role of nurse research specialist are tasked with analyzing fundamental aspects of patient care delivery to identify inefficiencies that may inhibit progress toward the goal of improved patient outcomes. They also work with facilities to create and implement health care strategies that eliminate these inefficiencies to ensure smooth day-to-day operations. Professionals in this role tend to have years of experience in positions that require certification. PayScale lists the average salary for nurse research specialists at around $68,500.

There are a few key factors that influence the average salary that a person can earn in these positions. For example, those with more experience in the health care industry may be able to command a higher salary than those who recently entered the field. The location of the job may also affect salaries.

Learn More

Since studies indicate people are living longer than ever before, delivering health care on a high level to the elderly is crucial. Fortunately, attaining a degree through a reputable DNP program can open students to several career paths that lead to the delivery of quality care. See how Regis College’s online MSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice program can help you meet your advanced professional goals.
Recommended Reading

5 Benefits of Earning a DNP Degree

5 DNP Careers in the Health Care Industry

Can You Get a Doctorate in Nursing?

What Can I Do with a Nursing Degree?



Advance Healthcare Network, 2018 Nurses Salary Results by State/Region

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice”

American Nurses Credentialing Center

Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Interview with a Nursing Instructor”

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Service Managers

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

Clinical Advisor, 2017 Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant Salary Survey

Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Nursing at the NIH Clinical Center

PayScale, Average Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) Salary

PayScale, Average Clinical Research Nurse Salary

PayScale, Average Nursing Instructor Salary

Regis College, Online MSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice

Springer Publishing Company, “The Essentials of the DNP Program”