Long-term care nurses provide ongoing treatment and companionship for elderly patients and those living with chronic conditions, such as mental health disorders and physical disabilities. They perform a number of important care giving and medical services, comforting their patients and helping them enjoy the highest possible degree of independence and happiness despite their conditions. The requirements to become a long-term care nurse can vary between regions and based on the type of care a nurse wants to provide. Most future professionals choose to obtain degrees from two- or four-year nursing school programs, take national licensing exams, and earn voluntary certification before applying for jobs in the field.
A person who wants to become a long-term care nurse may decide to pursue either licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN) credentials. Becoming an LPN generally takes less time, about two years of vocational training, but job opportunities may be limited. LPNs generally work under the supervision of RNs, providing basic care services. Most people who want to obtain full-time careers in long-term nursing opt to earn RN credentials.
In order to become an RN, an individual typically needs to complete either a two-year associate's degree or four-year bachelor's degree program from an accredited nursing school. Both programs can prepare future nurses for the job, but a four-year program provides more in-depth instruction and internship opportunities. As an undergraduate, a student can take classes in biology, anatomy, medical technology, and patient care techniques. In addition he or she may be able to intern at a hospital or assisted living facility to learn more about long-term care nursing.
After earning a degree, a person who wants to become a long-term care nurse can take a national exam to earn RN credentials. Opportunities for new nurses in long-term care positions may be limited, and many professionals begin their careers in more general settings. Working in an emergency room, critical care center, or a general hospital unit can provide essential firsthand experience. As a professional develops skills and learns about working with different patient types, he or she can begin looking into regional requirements to become a long-term care nurse.
Many hospitals, assisted living facilities, government organizations, and home health companies prefer to hire new nurses who have obtained specialized certification. National organizations such as the American Society for Long-Term Care Nurses in the United States offer voluntary credentials for nurses who apply for membership and pass written exams. With certification, an individual can become a long-term care nurse in an entry-level position and earn more responsibilities with experience and proven skills.