The Portal of Geriatrics Online Education

Geropsychiatric Nursing Competency Enhancements

Those in clinical practice routinely see older adults with undiagnosed or undertreated mental health problems. These elders usually present with physical complaints or for monitoring of chronic illnesses such as diabetes or hypertension. It takes a skilled practitioner to move beyond the obvious and discern the presence of mental health issues. This skill is invaluable since nearly one in five older women have some type of psychiatric disorder, with depression being the most common (Colenda et al., 2010).

The Geropsychiatric Nursing Collaborative, with support from the American Academy of Nursing, has recognized the burgeoning need for psychiatric competencies among all levels of nurses by developing Geropsychiatric Nursing Competency Enhancements to help educators prepare nurses to be competent in the care of older adults with mental health concerns and psychiatric/substance misuse disorders. Many of these competencies are applicable to physician as well as nursing practice.

The Geropsychiatric Nursing Competency Enhancements were developed to augment both existing and planned practice competencies proffered by relevant professional nursing organizations. The first competency enhancement addresses the care of the older adult at the baccalaureate nursing level. The remaining documents address geropsychiatric competency enhancements for: nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists who are geriatric specialists; adult nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists who provide clinical care to older adults but who are not geriatric specialists; and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists.

The competency enhancements are easy to use and understand by all types and practice level of Nurse Practitioner or Clinical Nurse Specialist. The authors have highlighted new competencies, or modifications to existing ones, in order to make them easily identifiable within the text. The competency enhancements are also grouped by type of advanced practice nurse and scope of practice, which aids an educator in incorporating geropsychiatric competencies into a curriculum. For example, in a women’s health nurse practitioner program, an educator would incorporate the competencies for nurse practitioners without being a geropsychiatric specialist.

This product is highly recommended for all nursing educators; these competencies are necessary to provide safe and effective care to older adults across care settings. Educators outside of nursing can also examine these competency enhancements when critically evaluating existing curricula or contemplating changes to the education of clinicians responsible for any aspects of older adult care.

The Geropsychiatric Nursing Competency Enhancements can be accessed online right here at POGOe.



Colenda, C. Legault, C.; Rapp, S.; DeBon, M.; Hogan, P. et al. (2010). Psychiatric Disorders and Cognitive Dysfunction Among Older, Postmenopausal Women: Results From the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 18(2), 177-186.