Nursing homes are an important part of the nation’s healthcare system. According to 2014 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 1.7 million patient beds spread across more than 15,000 nursing homes in the United States. These facilities rely on skilled nurses for everything from providing patient care to maintaining financial solvency. If you’re an RN interested in these opportunities, you may want to consider enrolling in an RN to BSN program to improve your odds of gaining employment in this area.

What Are the Job Options in Nursing Homes?

Because the needs of nursing home residents may vary significantly, there are several different positions available for nurses. Below are just a few of those career options:

Wound care nurse. Many nursing home residents may have limited or no mobility and may spend the majority of their day confined to a wheelchair or bed. This can lead to persistent and life-threatening bed sores and infections. “The wound nurse not only monitors and treats existing wounds but also promotes best practices in wound prevention. [This] is a needed role because of the fragility of elders’ skin and the challenges of immobility and incontinence in preserving skin integrity,” said Gail Weatherill, a BSN-prepared nurse from Charlottesville, Va., who has worked in nursing home settings for eight years.

MDS nurse. The minimum data set (MDS) relays information to Medicare regarding the level of care the nursing home is providing for each resident. “The MDS nurse reviews resident charts daily and inputs their treatments and care plan needs (i.e. minimum data) to Medicare’s computer system,” said Weatherill. “[The nurse] is in an excellent position to catch oversights or suggest changes to the care plan that can improve the resident’s care.” The MDS nurse also plays an instrumental role in ensuring ongoing revenues since Medicare uses the entered data to determine reimbursement rates for the facility.

Staff education nurse. As new staff, such as nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNAs), are hired, a staff education nurse oversees the completion of state-mandated courses and any continuous education needs. For example, infection control and CPR courses may need to be completed for each new employee as well as repeated annually. “It takes a special nurse to train and motivate [staff],” said Weatherill. “This nurse has the opportunity to promote job satisfaction and the quality of care provided.”

Director of nursing. The director of nursing role encompasses leadership and management tasks that include creating and adhering to departmental budgets, setting the culture and practice standards for the facility, and acting as a liaison between the facility and residents, physicians, and family members as needed. The person in this position also assumes responsibility for all care that is provided by facility employees. “If there are breaches of standard practice by staff, the director of nursing will, in part, be held accountable by the Board of Nursing,” said Weatherill.

How Does a Nursing Home Career Differ from a Hospital Career?

A nursing home career can differ substantially from a hospital career. One of the primary differences is in the ability to develop deeper relationships with patients. Since residents are often chronically ill and living at the nursing home for several months or years, you may have more time to learn their unique interests, preferences and personalities.

Moreover, those providing care in nursing homes may have a greater opportunity to impact the lives of the residents’ family and friends. “When you walk with people through the final months and years of a loved one’s life, when you help make those years meaningful, and when you empower families to choose a dignified, comfortable plan of care in the final days, those families never forget you,” said Weatherill. “In the nursing home, I have the daily privilege of bringing light and love into what has the potential to be a very sad and dark place.”

Called to Nursing Home Care

If you are drawn to a career in nursing home care, you have several pathways to explore depending on your skills and interests. From helping strengthen the health of residents as a wound care nurse to establishing policies and practice standards for employees in a director of nursing role, there is a range of career opportunities available.

Learn more about the Nevada State online RN to BSN program.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Nursing Home Care

Weatherill, G. (2017, June 17). Email interview.