Geriatrics is a specialty that’s growing by leaps and bounds. As the largest generation, the baby-boomers, ages, the need for medical care increases immensely. As a geriatric nurse you will no doubt be in high demand.
Older adults, over the age of 80, make up more than 35% of all hospital stays. Add to that the number of Americans, 65 and over, who populate post-surgical rehab, assisted living, long-term care facilities, and skilled nursing homes, and you’ll find a career in geriatric nursing is a secure one. The need for quality nurses in the next several decades will only increase.
It Takes Special Skills to Be a Geriatric Nurse
Do you have what it takes to be a geriatric nurse? This specialized area of medicine requires specific skills that not all nurses possess. In an effort to promote independence, to whatever degree the patient is able, you will be required to spend time getting to know your patient, educating your patient about areas of self-care in which they may need help, and treating your patient with dignity.
The patient who is unable to return to their home, or an independent living environment, will require even more dedication from the nursing staff. Nursing assistants will provide the patient with support in areas of personal hygiene, toileting, and moving about their environment. The specific needs of the geriatric patient may be primarily physical, or the patient may suffer from dementia, or it may be a combination of both. In that case, both CNA and RN will be required to be certified in gerontology through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
Compassion is Essential in Geriatric Care
You will need to possess a certain degree of “specialized” compassion for your geriatric patients. These individuals may suffer from dementia, age-related depression, sadness, and anger. They may afraid of what the future holds in store. Brittle bones, limited mobility, and many other conditions that arise late in life, along with the emotional aspect of growing older, require an infinite amount of patience, compassion, and the ability to approach your patient with dignity.
Specialized Tasks of A Geriatric Nurse
In your career as a geriatric nurse your day will be full. Depending on the medical facility in which you are employed, you’ll be tasked with the following:
- Assisting the physician and being present when exams are performed
- Creating and implementing the patient care plan, and working with the patient to establish health goals
- Performing certain medical tests
- Administering medications
- Educating family members and caregivers about your patient’s physical limitations, and how best to handle recovery at home, while maintaining whatever degree of self care is achievable
Your Day at Work
Your shift will be like that of any other nurse; 12 hour, or 8 hour shifts depending on the facility where you work. Your day will begin by checking in with the floor supervisor, then going over the patient report from the previous shift’s nurse. You’ll get your patients ready for the day, escorting them to the dining room for their meal, or seeing that they are comfortably ready to have their meal in their room. You’ll assess their vital signs, check blood sugar, when required, and distribute medications.
You may be called upon, at some point, to discuss the patient’s ongoing care with family members, medical team, and social worker. If you work in an assisted living environment, or a long term care, or skilled nursing, facility, you will be asked to be present when the family meets with the members of the patient’s care team, either as a part of their release from care, a change in the care plan, or to keep the family updated.
A Critical Fact of Geriatric Care
It’s truly a sad fact that individuals at this point in life are usually suffering from a combination of ailments, some serious. You need to be prepared for the patient’s care plan to change, on a moment’s notice. As life expectancy goes up in age, so does much of the toll taken. Medical issues may only compound.
You will also bear witness to end of life medical issues. Your patient’s needs may be many, as the approach the end of their life. Because of the fragile state of your patients, you may deal with far more less-than-happy endings to their care. A geriatric nurse must be prepared for the loss of their patients.
For all that’s required from a geriatric nurse, there really aren’t many specialties that can offer the fulfillment and satisfaction experienced in elder care. The demand for quality patient care in this ever-growing area of medicine is growing daily. Do you have what it takes to be a geriatric nurse?