Once a person reaches the age of 65, he will, on average, live for another 19.3 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For geriatric patients to achieve this level of longevity with minimal pain and/or discomfort, however, they will need highly attentive care from educated, experienced, and skilled adult-gerontology nurse practitioners. To maximize their effectiveness in treating these elderly patients, it is important that adult-geriatric nurse practitioners equip themselves with the following competencies, which will aid them in adapting to diverse patient circumstances.
Treating geriatric patients, especially those with significant health concerns, requires collaboration by an interdisciplinary team of health care professionals, including social workers, doctors, and geriatric nursing professionals. To achieve the greatest health care outcome for these patients, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners must be strong communicators who can articulate their ideas and observations to their colleagues without forgetting important details or misrepresenting patient data. Beyond their need to communicate smoothly with other health care providers, adult-gerontology nurses must also be capable of effective communication with patients and their families to ensure that their care plans are conveyed and enacted without disregard for the cultural or social standards that different patients value.
Geriatric patients are often struggling with chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, or diabetes, making it very likely that they come to health care facilities seeking somewhat immediate relief. Unfortunately, health care interventions for chronic conditions usually require patient and persistent adherence to a treatment regime before any results can be seen. Through their own patience, gerontology nurses can set an example for their patients, strengthening their ability to stick with the prescribed long-term treatment plans.
Tending to the patient’s concerns about the care process
A certified adult-gerontology nurse is likely to understand the treatment plans he is describing to his patients, but the patients themselves may not. Therefore, the nurse must bridge this gap by teaching his patient about his condition and working with the patient to develop the best possible plan for intervention. In doing so, the nurse can help also keep the patient actively involved in the treatment process, ensuring that, if his condition changes or worsens, the patient will notice the change and inform his medical provider.
Extensive knowledge of geriatric health issues
In 2012, 60 percent of adults were managing at least two chronic conditions, with Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease being ranked as some of the most common conditions among the elderly. To keep these and similarly severe conditions from becoming entirely unmanageable, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners must work exhaustively to detect them early and craft an evidence-based plan of care using all of the available data.
Maximizing comfort during the treatment process
Ensuring the comfort of patients throughout the treatment process is essential to protecting their dignity and providing the highest possible quality of care. Providing a patient with comfort sometimes means ensuring that he does not feel pain, though overall it means preventing unnecessary suffering to the best of a care provider’s ability. This can be achieved through medications and treatments but also by building relationships with the patients and creating an office environment that is relaxing. Comfort is especially important when treating terminally ill patients, though all patients deserve a comfortable health care experience, even for short-term hospitalizations.
Making treatment facilities a safe environment for patients
Patient safety is a constant concern for adult-gerontology nurse practitioners, as the physical fragility of geriatric patients and their aged immune systems often make them more susceptible to harm caused within care facilities. Most commonly, adult-gerontology nurses will need to use evidence-based preventive methods to prevent diagnostic errors that may occur because of miscommunication or equipment failure; infections that occur during hospitalizations because of poor hygiene; medication errors, such as incorrect dosing, prescribing the wrong medicine, or administering medicine at the wrong time; and falls that could have serious medical consequences for the elderly. With a trained attention to detail, preventive measures can be implemented to limit the impact of these safety concerns, but this is only possible if the nurse on duty knows what to look for.
Quality care is driven by strong relationships, and having a well-rounded knowledge of geriatric patients and the specific issues that they face is centric to building these relationships. Through a doctor of nursing practice program, nurses who already hold a bachelor’s degree can develop the proficiencies listed above, making them ideal candidates for adult-gerontology nursing careers.
Health care is seeing an industry-wide demand for advanced practice nurses trained at the doctoral level due to the changing landscape, drive for improved patient outcomes, and a shortage of qualified nurses. If you’re an RN with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and ready to take your career to a higher level, the Regis College’s BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice online program can prepare you for advanced nursing practice.
2. Nurse Journal
3. National League for Nursing
4. American Nurses Association
5. American Academy of Family Physicians
6. The Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing
7. Nursing Theories
8. American Association of Colleges of Nursing
9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention