Types of Geriatric Specialists [Complete Guide]

There are many different types of geriatric specialists. Whether you are a patient looking for a geriatric specialist. Or you are a health care provider looking to become a geriatric specialist. This article has information for you.

What is Geriatric Care?

Geriatric care includes health care and assistive care for older adults. Geriatrics typically includes those ages 65 and older. The health needs of older adults are different than the health needs of younger adults. Geriatric care is specialized for older adults.

Geriatric Patients

geriatric specialist for geriatric careAs previously mentioned, geriatric patients are those ages 65 and older. However, it is important to note that this is a very wide age range.

The healthcare needs of an active 65-year-old vary significantly from the healthcare needs of a frail, bedbound 90-year-old.

A geriatric specialist has received special training unique to this population. Therefore, they are able to meet the needs of anyone in advancing age. Most importantly, they are able to provide individualized care based on a person’s unique situation and needs.

Sometimes following generic information specific to geriatrics isn’t enough. This is because there is so much variability in the need of an aging adult. This is why it can be so beneficial to see a geriatric specialist.

Geriatric Careers

Most healthcare professionals receive a very broad education and later specialize with advanced training.

As a dietitian I learned everything about the field of dietetics. From how to provide care for every age range (babies to seniors), every medical condition (diabetes to cancer), and in a variety of settings (hospitals to food service to community programs). Later, I became certified as a specialist in geriatrics.

There are many rewarding opportunities pursuing geriatric careers. Geriatric specialists work in a variety of settings and situations. Below are some examples.

Geriatric Careers

  • Hospitals
  • Long Term Care
  • Home Care
  • Palliative Care
  • Hospice Care
  • Correction Facilities
  • Post-Acute Care
  • Outpatient Care
  • Public Health
  • Community Settings
  • Industry and Brands
  • Universities and Higher Education
  • Business and Private Practice

List of Geriatric Specialists

Here is a summary of common credentials for geriatric specialists. Keep in mind there are many different types of healthcare care providers and this list is not inclusive.

    • Gerontological Nurse– Board Certified (GERO-BC™)
    • Gerontological Nurse Practitioner Certification (GNP-BC)
    • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGACNP-BC)
    • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGPCNP-BC)
    • Certification in Geriatrics for Internal Medicine Physicians
    • Certification in Geriatrics for Family Medicine Physicians
    • Clinical Social Worker in Gerontology (CSW-G)
    • Social Worker in Gerontology (SW-G)
    • Certification in Geriatrics for Psychiatrists
    • BPS Board Certified Geriatric Pharmacist (BCGP)
    • Board Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition (CSG)
    • Physical Therapy Geriatric Certified Specialist (GCS)

Let’s dig into each type of geriatric specialist and these credentials.

Geriatric Nurse

A Registered Nurse (RN) can choose to become a geriatric specialist by pursing an advanced credential. The field of nursing actually offers quite a few specialty certifications. You can learn more at the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

What is a Geriatric Nurse?

A geriatric nurse is someone who has received additional training beyond the RN credential. They have learned valuable skills in geriatrics and have passed the exam for geriatric certification: Gerontological Nurse- Board Certified (GERO-BC™).

Gerontological Nurse- Board Certified (GERO-BC™)

The Gerontological Nurse- Board Certified (GERO-BC™) is a credential available for RNs. The credential is valid for 5 years after they pass the exam. At this point they can opt to renew their credential.

You can learn more about becoming a Gerontological Nurse- Board Certified (GERO-BC™) here.

Geriatric Nurse Practitioner

A Nurse Practitioner (NP) can choose to become a geriatric specialist by pursing an advanced credential. Like RNs, NPs also have several specialty certifications. They are also offered through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

What is a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner?

A geriatric nurse practitioner has received additional training in geriatrics beyond their basic NP training. There are actually 3 different geriatric credentials NPs may have.

The Gerontological Nurse Practitioner Certification (GNP-BC) credential is no longer offered, but those with the credential can continue to maintain it. Newer NPs have 2 different geriatric certifications they can purse. One related to acute care (in the hospital) and primary care (outpatient).

Gerontological Nurse Practitioner Certification (GNP-BC)

The Gerontological Nurse Practitioner Certification (GNP-BC) was the original geriatric certification NPs held. This certification is no longer offered for new canidates.

Anyone who had the GNP-BC was able to retain the credential and renew it every 5 years. You will see many NPs with this credential. And they are adequately trained in this specialized field.

However, if an GNP-BC allows their credential to lapse, they will have to pursue one of the newer geriatric certifications: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGACNP-BC) or Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGPCNP-BC).

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGACNP-BC)

The Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGACNP-BC) is for NPs who work in acute care settings (typically hospitals). The credential must be renewed every 5 years.

You can learn more about becoming an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGACNP-BC) here.

Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGPCNP-BC)

The Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGPCNP-BC) is for NPs who work in primary settings (typically outpatient settings). The credential must be renewed every 5 years.

You can learn more about becoming an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGPCNP-BC) here.

Geriatric Doctor

A physician can choose to become a geriatric specialist by pursing an advanced credential.

There are a wide variety of geriatric specialties available to doctors. Primarily because doctors can do so many different things. And they often narrow down their niche to one specific area to provide the best care possible.

The American Board of Medical Specialties (AMBS) is the leading organization for physician board certification. AMBS Member Boards certify in 40 specialties and 87 subspecialties. That is a lot!

What is a Geriatric Doctor?

A geriatric doctor is a physician who has received specialty training providing care for older adults. They have met the specialty training requirements and passed exams required for specialty or subspecialty certification. The requirements for each certification vary.

You can see the complete list of certifications offered through AMBS here.

Certification in Geriatrics for Internal Medicine Physicians

Certification in Geriatrics for Internal Medicine Physicians is provided through the American Board of Internal Medicine. Geriatrics is considered a subspecialty.

You can learn more about Certification in Geriatrics for Internal Medicine Physicians here.

Certification in Geriatrics for Family Medicine Physicians

Certification in Geriatrics for Family Medicine Physicians is provided through the American Board of Family Medicine. Geriatrics is considered a subspecialty.

You can learn more about Certification in Geriatrics for Family Medicine Physicians here.

Geriatric Social Worker

A Social Worker can choose to become a geriatric specialist by pursing an advanced credential. The field of social work recognized that older adults have unique needs that are different than earlier stages of adulthood.

What is a Geriatric Social Worker?

A geriatric social worker works to address the specific challenges in the aging process. They advocate for and promote independence, autonomy, and dignity.

Geriatric specialist certifications are offered for Social Workers through the National Association of Social Workers. They offer two geriatric credentials: Clinical Social Worker in Gerontology (CSW-G) and Social Worker in Gerontology (SW-G).

Clinical Social Worker in Gerontology (CSW-G)

The Clinical Social Worker in Gerontology (CSW-G) credential is specific for Master’s degree level clinical social workers.

You can learn more about becoming a Clinical Social Worker in Gerontology (CSW-G) here.

Social Worker in Gerontology (SW-G)

The Social Worker in Gerontology (SW-G) is for Bachelor’s degree level social workers.

You can learn more about becoming a Social Worker in Gerontology (SW-G) here.

Geriatric Psychiatrist

Similar to doctors, psychiatrists have many specialty certifications available. A geriatric psychiatrist has received specialized training to meet the needs of aging adults.

What is a Geriatric Psychiatrist?

A geriatric psychiatrist has received specialty training in providing care for older adults and has passed an exam for certification.  Psychiatrists wanting to pursue geriatric certification must meet specific criteria in order to sit for their exam.

Certification in Geriatrics for Psychiatrists

The Certification in Geriatrics for Psychiatrists is provided through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Geriatrics is one of many subspecialty certifications available.

You can learn more about the Certification in Geriatrics for Psychiatrists here.

Geriatric Pharmacy

A pharmacist can choose to become a geriatric specialist by pursing an advanced credential though the Board of Pharmacy Specialties® (BPS).

What is a Geriatric Pharmacist?

A geriatric pharmacist specialized in the knowledge of medications for older adults to provide the best outcomes. They focus on the special needs of older adults who often have multiple diagnoses and are on multiple medication.

There are over 4,700 pharmacists who have pursed geriatric certification as a BPS Board Certified Geriatric Pharmacist (BCGP).

BPS Board Certified Geriatric Pharmacist (BCGP)

A BPS Board Certified Geriatric Pharmacist (BCGP) is a pharmacist with at least 2 years of specific geriatric experience and had passed the Geriatric Pharmacy Specialty Certification Examination.

The credential is maintained every 7 years through re-testing or completing specific continuing education requirements.

You can learn more about becoming a BPS Board Certified Geriatric Pharmacist (BCGP) here.

Geriatric Dietitian

We’ve made it to our credential! A dietitian can choose to become a geriatric specialist by pursing an advanced credential. You can learn more about this topic in my article Top 5 Tips to Become a CSG Dietitian.

What is a Geriatric Dietitian?

A geriatric dietitian specializes in providing nutrition care for the older adult. They have received additional experience and training in geriatrics and have passed the exam to become a Board Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition (CSG).

Board Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition (CSG)

The Board Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition (CSG) is good for 5 years. At that point the dietitian would need to retake the CSG exam. This specialty credential is offered through the Commission on Dietetic Registration.

You can learn more about the Board Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition (CSG) here.

Geriatric Physical Therapist

A Physical Therapist (PT) can choose to become a geriatric specialist by pursing an advanced credential. These PTs are committed to providing the very best evidenced-based care to older adults.

What is a Geriatric Physical Therapist?

A geriatric physical therapist has built on their broad base of education and practice to meet the unique needs of older adults in a variety of settings. They have met specific requirements and passed an exam to become a Physical Therapy Geriatric Certified Specialist (GCS).

Physical Therapy Geriatric Certified Specialist (GCS)

A Physical Therapy Geriatric Certified Specialist (GCS) is offered through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties.

You can learn more about becoming a Physical Therapy Geriatric Certified Specialist (GCS) here.

Conclusion- Geriatric Specialists

As you can see there are many different types of geriatric specialists in healthcare.

At the Geriatric Dietitian, we are a big advocate of pursuing geriatric specialist certifications. The health care needs of older adults truly are unique. And with the rapid aging of our population, we need more specialist to provide the very best care to this important age group.

If you are a healthcare professional and you primarily work with older adults, we encourage you to purse certification to become a geriatric specialist.

And if you are an older adult or a caregiver to an older adult, I hope this article was helpful to see some the different types of geriatric specialists available.

Types of Geriatric Specialists- Infographic

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