How to Succeed with a Career in Long Term Care Nursing

How to Succeed with a Career in Long Term Care Nursing

Thanks to very high demand, there are many reasons to consider long term care nursing as a career.

To succeed in this profession, you’ll want to understand the what, how and why.

Let’s start at the beginning.

What is Long Term Care Nursing?

These professionals primarily focus on extended patient healthcare.

This can cover a wide variety of patient types including those:

  • Recovering from a very severe accident/injury
  • Living with a disability
  • Suffering from progressive illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and AIDS wasting complex
  • Suffering from chronic conditions such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, osteoarthritis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Success in this career field equates to executing its many responsibilities in a professional and caring manner.

Profession | How to Succeed with a Career in Long Term Care Nursing

How to Enter the Long Term Care Nursing Profession

It’s a requirement that you must complete a nursing program and have attained licensure.

Therefore, a person who wishes to become a long-term care nurse will often start their careers by becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN).

Earning a nursing degree or diploma and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) must happen in order to be licensed.

Once you’ve obtained your license, you can begin working as a registered nurse in either a short-term or long-term care position.

Nurses often begin their careers as short-term nurses, working in a hospital or rehabilitation facility. As their experience grows, they may uncover a desire to serve as a long term care nurse.

As you know, the majority of long term care nursing patients are elderly.

If you are seeking this profession, you may choose to enroll in continuing education programs that focus on long-term medical care or gerontology.

Certification in long term care nursing is almost always optional, but it benefits you and your patients, so it is highly desired. Obtaining a professional certification is an option for both RNs and LPNs.

  • The National Association for Practical Nursing and Education Service (NAPNES) offers certifications for LPNs.
  • The American Association for Long Term Care Nursing (AALTCN) offers opportunities for RNs to become certified.

Before you may take the certification exam, you must complete one of the certification programs. These programs are tailored to cover specific types of long term care and include study materials and a certification exam.

The programs include:

  • Long Term Care Nursing – Common Duties
  • Care for elderly, and younger patients with disabilities
  • Create long term patient care plans
  • Educate the patient’s family on the patient’s medical condition

Competency Checklist | How to Succeed with a Career in Long Term Care Nursing

Long Term Care Nurse Competency Checklist

As a Long Term Care Nurse, you will perform nursing skills, provide physical and emotional support to patients and their families, and coordinate patient care by collaborating with the patient’s interdisciplinary team.

Note that members of an interdisciplinary team may include:

  • Case Managers
  • Physicians
  • Social Workers
  • Dieticians
  • Speech Language Pathologists
  • Physical Therapists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Respiratory Therapists
  • and even Pharmacists.

Let’s examine these requirements more closely.

Competency #1:
Significant knowledge of patient care

Long term care nurses help those who cannot care for themselves and are in need of ongoing medical care.

Specifically, the following medical skills are often utilized:

  • Administering medication
  • Wound care
  • Monitoring and recording vital signs
  • Providing therapeutic treatments
  • Indwelling urinary catheter care
  • Intravenous therapy
  • Enteral tube feedings
  • Respiratory therapy
  • Management of stable ventilators
  • Ostomy care
  • Tracheostomy care
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

Competency #2:
Professional and Personal Investment

The perceived primary focus of long term care nurse jobs is on the medical aspect, in actuality, the fact is that many nurses do much more.

Long term care nurses are often very important in the daily lives of their patients providing aid with things like bathing, dressing, and eating. Assisting patients in these ways often leads to strong bonds.

An ability to be professionally and personally invested is a must for long term care nurses.

Patients and their families often rely on you for companionship, comfort, and support. As the professional, families will also frequently look to you for guidance and advice on a variety of things relating to their loved one’s injury or disability.

Competency #3:
Strong Collaboration Skills

You will be working with a number of other professionals to ensure proper care.

It’s important to note that long term care nurses document all care that has been provided.

Additionally, you will often provide education to and about your patient as well as help apply and adapt their care protocol.

Because you can work in a variety of locations, having some flexibility ensures you can be there for your patients when they need you most.

Long term care nurses often work in these locations:

  • Home Care Agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Retirement communities

Did you know that patients are often referred to as “residents” in most long term care facilities? Locations like assisted living, nursing homes, and retirement communities have “residents” whereas hospitals have “patients”.

If you were wondering what a long term care nursing job description might look like, the responsibilities outlined above can shed some light on that.

Great Career | How to Succeed with a Career in Long Term Care Nursing

Why Long Term Care Nursing is a Great Career

Now that you know how to succeed in this profession, check out three amazing reasons you’ll be glad you chose it:

  • Career Stability
  • Rewarding Relationships
  • Experience and Growth

1. Career Stability

Perhaps the most obvious reason is the fact that this particular nursing profession is growing at a rapid pace.

Long term care nursing is a field expected to explode in growth over the next decade due to the aging baby boomer population.

Choosing this specialty ensures career stability for the duration of your professional life. The ability to secure your professional and financial future is a strong factor when making career choices.

Remember that this field is an ever-growing group of caregivers. This means you’ll also enjoy a supportive group of associates and peers.

2. Rewarding Relationships

[clickToTweet tweet=”In addition to stability, rewarding relationships are plentiful for long term care nurses #rn” quote=”In addition to stability, rewarding relationships are plentiful for long term care nurses.”]

Because you will often care for the same patients every day, don’t be surprised when you find yourself in comfortable relationships with them and their families.

Through your compassionate nature, you will help many patients in times of great need.

The immeasurable fulfillment you receive while caring for your patients is a positive undercurrent constantly running throughout the length of your career.

In addition to the relationships you build with your patients and their families, you will have many opportunities to create wonderful relationships with other caregivers.

You will be working hand-in-hand with a number of associates and professional peers every single day. Inevitably you will form rewarding friendships and networking relationships with many of these people.

SEE ALSO: Why A Personal Philosophy of Nursing Can Help Your Career

3. Experience and Growth

Long term care nurses often gain valuable experience in certain specialties faster than short-term nurses.

The settings in which long term care nurses work provides excellent opportunity to increase your skill set and to perfect what you do.

According to Lori Gutierrez, BS, RN-C*, DON-CLTC, and a teaching affiliate and clinical educator with the American Association for Long Term Care Nursing (AALTCN), “The skill sets nurses need to continue to sharpen,” says Gutierrez. “There’s no IV team, so you take your own blood draws. There are things hospital nurses take for granted. There’s no rapid response team. You’re it.”

Gaining new skills and perfecting them ensure you become an appealing job candidate. When it comes to career growth, long term care nurses are in a prime position to move up the ladder.

SEE ALSO: How to Get Nursing Experience with an Awesome Travel Job

Conclusion | How to Succeed with a Career in Long Term Care Nursing


Success in long term care nursing can be achieved through education, hard work, commitment, and compassion. A thorough understanding of what the profession entails is key.

This rewarding specialty is ideal for nurses with an analytical mind, a high level of patience, and a passionate nature.

If you care deeply about medicine, care giving and relationships, this profession is for you.

Consider these three excellent reasons to become a long term care nurse:

  • Career Stability
  • Rewarding Relationships
  • Experience and Growth


Why do you think long term care nursing may be the right career for you?

Share with us in the comments below!


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