Gerontology is the specialty of geriatrics which focuses on providing care for older adults. Nurses who work in this field understand the high demands of this specialty practice area.
Older adults are more likely to require health services than a young person. In fact, half of all admissions to hospitals are for patients over age 65. However, only 1 percent of nurses are certified in geriatrics.
In response to the aging of the American population, geriatric nursing is a rapidly growing career field. The post-WWII generation, called the “Baby Boomers,” is now hitting retirement age.
By 2050, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 20 percent of Americans will be over the age of 65.
A geriatric nurse is educated to assess and treat the challenging physical and mental health needs found in older people.
These nurses try to assist their patients in protecting their health and coping with changes in their mental and physical abilities. The goal is to help older people remain independent and active as long as possible.
Common duties required of a geriatric nurse may include:
Assessment of the patient mental status and cognitive (thinking) skills
Understanding a patient’s acute and chronic health issues
Discussion of common health concerns, such as falls, sexual issues, incontinence and changing sleep patterns
Educating patients about personal safety and disease prevention
Explaining and recommending adjustments to the patient’s medication routine to increase adherence to the treatment regimen
Helping the patient with access to local resources as needed
Many of the health conditions suffered by older people do not require hospitalization but must be managed with medication, changes in dietary habits, daily exercise routines, adaptations within the home and the use of special equipment, such as walkers or blood sugar monitors.
Geriatric nurses are responsible for helping patients design health care regimens and explaining the importance of the plan to patients and their families.
The geriatric nurse may fill the role of case manager, connecting families with community resources to assist them in caring for elderly family members.
Must effectively communicate with your co-workers to ensure the best care and the proper procedures. Must be able to communicate in high-stress environments.
Offering your full attention to an individual person or group in order to fully understand problems and their nature.
Must use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
Judgment and Decision Making
Needs to be able to act autonomously and make difficult decisions that would benefit the patient or make corrections. Must consider all benefits and repercussions of potential actions and choose the appropriate one.
Complex Problem Solving
Must be able to identify complex problems and develop and evaluate corrective options and implement solutions.
Must be able to endure intense situations and handle pressure that comes with extreme situations you may encounter.
Must be trustworthy because you have people's lives in your hands and what you do could help or hurt them. They are entrusted with a great responsibility and must live up to it.
Gauging how people react and read their body language to decipher their feelings and predict their actions. They must be able to determine if people could be a risk to themselves or others and to distinguish truths from lies.
Employment opportunities for geriatric nurses are available in a variety of practice settings, such as:
Patients’ homes through home health services
Geriatric nurses working in a hospital setting tend to work as part of a treatment team that serve a larger older patient population.
These teams may represent outpatient surgery, cardiology, ophthalmology, rehabilitation, dermatology and geriatric mental health, which may require treatment for psychiatric conditions such as Alzheimer’s, anxiety and depression.
In long-term care facilities and rehabilitation centers, geriatric nurses serve as patient care managers from the initial assessment through the development, implementation and evaluation of the care plan.
Geriatric nurses may also be required to take on administrative, training and leadership roles.
There is an increasing demand for geriatric nurses because of the aging population.
Employment opportunities are increasing in nursing homes and health care facilities that serve a large portion of the older patient population.
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