Geriatrics is the field of medicine dealing with the care of elderly people. Geriatric or gerontological nurses are essential professional in the medical field as they provide care to elderly patients with unique needs. Human life expectancy has been increasing, and the demand for geriatric nurses has been growing drastically.
The elderly need more medical care as their bodies are wearing out, and they experience numerous health problems. The fragile health of the elderly makes them need special care, especially because even a seemingly minor issue can quickly get out control and develop to something more serious.
Qualities of a Good Geriatric Nurse
Anyone intending to become a geriatric nurse should first evaluate the personality to determine if it is compatible with the requirements of the elderly.
- Respect for the elderly tries compassion or empathy
People at old age are not in control of their faculties. It can be challenging to determine their likes, interests, and dislikes. Others experience memory impairment, sensory loss, and disability. It requires much patience, determination, and kindness to offer care to a person who makes irrational decisions.
- Good communication skills
Working with the elderly is challenging since old age conditions like Alzheimer‘s and dementia hinder them from communicating efficiently. It requires good communication skills to get them talking and decipher their needs.
- Power to assess
A geriatric nurse should have more ability to observe and be adept at assessing the subtle signs of improvement or deterioration. Determining the special needs of each elderly patient helps to increase the enjoyment of life. It also allows giving attention to social and psychological wellbeing.
- Flexible approach
Some older adults depend entirely on others to perform the essential activities of daily living. It can feel helpless, depressed, and lack of freedom. A geriatric nurse should allow some freedom in the care choices for the patients to feel as if they still have some control of their life. It is wise to involve them is daily decisions of small decisions such as their food and clothes to wear.
Creativity is a skill that you might not associate with a healthcare career, but it is a trait that is becoming useful in the nursing field. An elderly care nurse will find a big difference in the needs and attitudes of their patients. A gerontological nurse must think beyond the usual to invent new ways of diverting and engaging elderly patients. Introducing changes that a patient welcomes in daily routines improves the quality of life.
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How to Join Geriatric Nursing
Most geriatric nurses start by becoming RNs after earning a nursing degree and passing a certification examination. Those with dreams to be a geriatric nurse must have an interest in caring for the aging population. They also must have experience in a unique set of challenges that require special skills to sort them.
Geriatric nurses get core health care training like other nurses through an associate’s or a bachelor‘s degree. They study topics such as physiology, anatomy, medical terminology, and patient care within nursing ethics. Some nursing schools have undergraduate degree programs that incorporate courses in geriatric nursing. These courses are introductory and brief. They are studies for the preparation of candidates to sit mandatory exams to become RNs.
Trainees gain practical skills through internships or on-site clinics. After earning a BSN degree, it only requires getting licensure from the professional licensing authority. However, there is a professional certification worth pursuing because it allows nurses to gain experience in geriatric filed.
Those who want to pursue certification to specialize in gerontology should have RN licensure, two years experience of working as a full time registered nurse, and 2000 hours on gerontological nursing. Some certification programs also require applicants to have participated in continuing education for at least 30 hours.
Some students pursue a Master of Science in Geriatric Nursing degree that some schools call adult health nursing programs. It is a program that takes 2-3 years. Graduates might also pursue advanced credentials like adult nurse practitioner certification. Common courses that graduate level students pursue include:
- Nursing research
- Elderly nursing problems
Duties and Responsibilities of Geriatric Nursing
Geriatric nurses provide care for elderly patients to enable them to enjoy quality life, maintain mobility and independence. They have the training to anticipate the needs of aging and give them the necessary care. The focus of geriatric nurses is on age-related diseases and health concerns, including:
- Chronic pain
- Impaired mobility
- Nutritional deficiency
A geriatric nurse must perform various duties when attending to patients. It starts by measuring and recording vital signs. Administering medications, exercising, massaging, and arranging transportation for appointments are part of responsibilities for gerontology nurses. They also help immobilized patients with daily needs, such as using a bathroom, bathing, and dressing. A geriatric nurse must maintain an accurate patient record throughout their activities and coordinate care in adherence to patient recommendations.
Career Prospects for Geriatric Nursing
Job opportunities for gerontological nurses continue to increase as the population continues to age, and practicing nursing professionals retire. Geriatric nurses have an opportunity to work in a variety of healthcare settings, including:
- Nursing homes
- Memory care centers
- Retirement centers
- Community colleges, healthcare facilities, and universities as clinical educators
Gerontological nurses can also provide home healthcare.
Geriatric nursing is a specialty, and nurses receive higher pay than ordinary RNs. For instance, an RN geriatric working as a staff nurse $30 to $38 an hour in the United States. Hourly rate varies depending on factors such as education, certifications, number of years spent in the profession, and additional skills.
A geriatric nurse plays a crucial role to monitor patient‘s condition, make them comfortable and cheerful even during difficult times. Patients rely on them for an explanation about their medication and care regimen. It is essential to have excellent communication skills because gerontology sometimes involves acting as a liaison between a patient, family members, and physicians. A geriatric nurse should also have knowledge and skills to advice on some health and ability issues.