Clinical Nurse Specialist in Gerontology


A Clinical Nurse Specialist in Gerontology (GCNS) is an advanced nursing practitioner who participates in the care of aging patients. This specialty is concerned with all aspects of care for patients in later life, including both preventive and rehabilitative treatments and assessment of health care needs.

Credentialing Organization

American Nurses Credentialing Center. You will be required to take a computer-based examination, the fee for which will depend on whether you are a member of the American Nurses Association or the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists. Upon passing the examination, you will be given the following credential: GCNS-BC (Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist-Board Certified). You'll need to renew your certification after five years. Please apply to the American Nurses Credentialing Center at least three months before your current certificate expires.


Before being certified as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Gerontology, you'll need:

  • A current license as a registered nurse (RN). This license should either be issued by an official body in the United States or by a legally recognized licensing body elsewhere.
  • A degree on at least the Master's level from an educational body accredited by one of these two bodies: the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on the Collegiate of Nursing Education (CCNE).
  • 500 or more hours as a clinical nurse specialist in gerontology supervised by faculty as part of your degree program.
  • Course work in the following subjects:
    • advanced health assessment
    • advanced pathophysiology
    • advanced pharmacology

About the Certification Exam

The exam consists of 175 questions divided into seven domains: Basic and Applied Science (8 questions or 5.33 percent of the test), Theories of Aging and Theories Applicable to Age (3 questions or 2 percent of the test), Advanced Clinical Practice (65 questions or 43.33 percent of the test), Organization/Network/Health System (22 questions or 44.37 percent of the test), Research (9 questions or 6 percent of the test), Education (11 questions or 7.33 percent of the test) and Professionalism (32 questions or 21.33 percent of the test). Of these questions, 150 count toward the final score. (The remainder are questions being statistically tested for inclusion in future exams.)

CNS Certification Options

Free Gerontological CNS Practice Test

1. In assessing the aging client, it is important for the nurse to recognize?

a. The client's ability to perform activities of daily living
b. The financial status of the client
c. The job that the client held prior to aging
d. All components of well-being, including biological function, psychological function, and social function

2. Medications, slower mobility, lack of proper fluid intake, and poor diet can contribute to what common symptom in the elder population?

a. Urinary incontinence
b. Skin changes
c. Mental changes
d. Depression

3. The nurse assessing the older population needs to have a basic understanding of which of the following?

a. The economic status of the area
b. The difference between normal and abnormal for the older age group
c. The signs of sexual dysfunction
d. The signs of cardiac disease

4. Which statement would be most appropriate to ask when assessing an aging adult for cognitive function?

a. What is today's date?
b. Can you count to 10 for me?
c. Have you noticed anything different about your memory or thinking in the past few months?
d. Who is the president of the United States?

5. Which disease or ailment is often under diagnosed and undertreated in the aging population?

a. Schizophrenia
b. Depression
c. Associative disorders
d. Attention deficit disorder

Gerontological CNS Answers and Explanations

1. D: It is important to understand how the client functions on a physical level with activities of daily living, but also on a psychological level by learning how the client copes, and a social level by assessing how the client functions within relationships.

2. A: Urinary incontinence is a common problem along with bladder leaking, frequency, and urinary tract infections. An in-depth assessment is needed to assist in diagnosing and treating urinary complaints in the older population. Exams should include history, physical examination of external genitalia, and pelvic or rectal exams.

3. B: The nurse must understand what is normal and what would be considered abnormal for the older adult patient when assessing for health needs. Although a basic understanding of financial difficulties, cardiac function, and sexual functioning is important, the nurse must differentiate the abnormal from the normal in order to help diagnose problems and improve outcomes for the patient.

4. C: It is the best initial question to ask a client over the age of 60 when assessing for cognitive function. While the other questions may be asked throughout the assessment, the client's perspective of memory and function is a baseline for the assessment. The client will usually be the first one to notice a change and is often too embarrassed or afraid to mention it to others.

5. B: Depression in those over the age of 65 is often under diagnosed and is directly related to the client's adjustment to this stage of ego integrity versus despair and how they view their life fulfillment.


Last Updated: 07/05/2018

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