What is The Role of a Nurse Practitioner in Gerontology?

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By Published On: October 3, 2023


From 2015 to 2050, the percentage of the total global population aged 60 and above is projected to almost double, rising from 12% to 22%, according to the World Health Organization. As the global population continues to age, the field of adult gerontology is gaining increasing significance in the healthcare system. 

Adult gerontology encompasses the study and practice of healthcare for older adults, focusing on promoting wellness, preventing diseases, and managing chronic conditions that commonly affect this demographic. At the forefront of delivering comprehensive care to older adults is the role of an adult gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP). 

In this article, we will delve into the realm of adult gerontology, specifically highlighting the indispensable role adult gerontology nurse practitioners play in addressing the unique healthcare needs of older adults. We will explore their responsibilities, the prevalent health issues in this population, and the path to becoming an AGNP.

What is Adult Gerontology?

Adult gerontology is a specialized field within healthcare that caters to the diverse medical, psychological, and social needs of adults as they progress through middle age and into their golden years. This field recognizes that older adults require tailored care due to the physiological changes that come with aging, coupled with the pervasiveness of chronic illnesses. Adult gerontology focuses on maintaining the quality of life, functional independence, and overall well-being of older individuals.

Physiological changes associated with aging, such as a gradual decline in organ function, changes in metabolism, and a higher susceptibility to chronic illnesses, necessitate a specific approach to healthcare. This is where adult gerontology comes into play. Professionals in this field understand the intricacies of these physiological changes and are equipped to provide appropriate interventions, preventive measures, and treatments to ensure that older adults enjoy the best possible health outcomes.

Moreover, adult gerontology recognizes the importance of addressing the psychological and social dimensions of aging. Older adults often face challenges like adjusting to retirement, dealing with loss, managing cognitive changes, and maintaining a sense of purpose and social connection. Adult gerontology practitioners are attuned to these emotional and social factors and work to provide comprehensive support that enhances mental well-being and overall quality of life.

Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioners: Acute Care vs. Primary Care

Adult Gerontology Acute Care and Adult Gerontology Primary Care are two distinct but closely related specialties within the field of nursing and healthcare. Both specialties focus on the care of adults and older adults, but they have different scopes and areas of expertise.

Adult Gerontology Acute Care

  • Specializes in treating adults and older adults with acute and complex medical conditions in hospitals and critical care settings.
  • Manages critical conditions like infections, heart failure, and post-operative complications.
  • Works closely with healthcare teams to make rapid clinical decisions and ensure patient stability.

Adult Gerontology Primary Care

  • Focuses on providing comprehensive primary care to adults and older adults in outpatient settings.
  • Manages chronic conditions, offers preventive care, routine screenings, and wellness education.
  • Builds long-term patient relationships, emphasizes health maintenance, and collaborates on personalized health plans and goals.

While both specialties cater to older adults, Adult Gerontology Acute Care deals with urgent medical cases in hospitals and specialty clinics, while Adult Gerontology Primary Care offers ongoing comprehensive care and health promotion in outpatient settings.

The Role of an Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

An adult gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP) is a highly-trained advanced practice nurse who specializes in providing holistic care to older adults. AGNPs bridge the gap between medical doctors and registered nurses, offering a unique blend of clinical expertise and a patient-centered approach. Their role encompasses various responsibilities, including:

Assessment and Diagnosis: AGNPs conduct thorough assessments to identify health concerns, perform diagnostic tests, and develop personalized care plans tailored to each patient’s needs. This involves considering physical, emotional, and social factors that influence an older adult’s well-being.

Management of Chronic Conditions: Older adults often have multiple chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis. AGNPs are adept at managing these conditions, prescribing medications, monitoring progress, and making necessary adjustments to treatment plans.

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention: AGNPs emphasize preventive care, promoting healthy lifestyle choices, and administering vaccinations. They work closely with patients to develop strategies that maintain or improve their overall health and prevent future illnesses.

Palliative and End-of-Life Care: AGNPs are trained to provide compassionate palliative care to alleviate pain and discomfort in older adults with serious illnesses. They also guide patients and their families through end-of-life discussions, ensuring that wishes are respected.

Collaboration and Education: AGNPs collaborate with interdisciplinary healthcare teams to ensure comprehensive care. They also educate patients and their families about health conditions, medications, and self-care strategies, empowering them to actively participate in their well-being.

Common Health Issues in Older Adults

AGNPs address a range of health issues prevalent among older adults, including:

Cardiovascular Diseases

Hypertension, heart disease, and stroke are common concerns in the aging population. AGNPs monitor cardiovascular health and implement strategies to prevent complications.

Neurological Disorders

Conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease require specialized care. AGNPs help manage symptoms, provide support, and offer guidance to families.

Musculoskeletal Issues

Arthritis, osteoporosis, and mobility challenges are frequently encountered. AGNPs develop exercise plans, recommend assistive devices, and administer treatments to enhance mobility.

Respiratory Conditions

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia are significant respiratory issues that commonly impact older adults. AGNPs provide interventions to improve lung function and manage symptoms.


Many older adults have diabetes. AGNPs monitor blood sugar levels, adjust medications, and educate patients about dietary and lifestyle modifications.

Becoming an Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

Becoming an AGNP requires a combination of education, training, and certification for healthcare professionals:

Education: Aspiring AGNPs typically start by obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Subsequently, they pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree with a focus on adult gerontology.

Certification: After completing their advanced degree, individuals must obtain national certification as an AGNP through organizations such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

Licensure: Licensure requirements vary by state, but AGNPs must obtain advanced practice nursing licensure to practice legally.

Clinical Experience: Most AGNP programs include clinical rotations where students gain hands-on experience under the guidance of experienced practitioners. This helps build expertise in working with older adults and managing their unique health needs.

Continuing Education: Healthcare is an ever-evolving field. AGNPs are encouraged to engage in continuous learning to stay updated on the latest research, treatment modalities, and best practices in adult gerontology.

Salary: According to the BLS, in 2022, the average annual salary for nurse practitioners was $124,680. This can vary by setting, specialties, and experience, along with whether you work in primary or acute care.

The role of an adult gerontology nurse practitioner is indispensable in ensuring the well-being of older adults and the overall healthcare ecosystem. AGNPs bring comprehensive care, specialized expertise, and a compassionate approach to addressing the unique healthcare needs of this population. Through their efforts, these health professionals contribute to enhancing the quality of life and overall health of older adults. As the field of adult gerontology continues to evolve, the role of AGNPs will remain crucial in shaping the future of elderly care.

Pursue Gerontology with Concordia University Chicago

Concordia University Chicago offers several gerontology programs for aspiring gerontological nurses. Our programs are 100% online and designed to help graduate students learn how to help aging adults through comprehensive healthcare. Apply today or visit our website for more information.

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