It’s no secret that our elderly are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, fueled largely by aging Boomers. So it’s simple to deduce that nursing careers in adult-gerontology can offer many opportunities for growth and nursing leadership. However, working effectively with this demographic requires specific skills for success.
Nursing competencies should include a BSN and a minimum requirement of a firm base of experience in general medical-surgical nursing to care effectively for the disease processes that affect the elderly. Cardiac and respiratory conditions, diabetes, and cognitive impairments are among the most common pathologies troubling people over 55. Nurses must be adept with assessment skills to detect condition changes in their patients. Nurses advancing to management roles will be better prepared with their MSN, NP, and even a DNP.
You’ll need capable skills for working with the most common psychosocial issues of those in their later years. Many elderly patients suffer from social isolation and depression, which can exacerbate physical issues they may be dealing with. Nurses will also need to demonstrate empathy and patience when working with those suffering from cognitive impairments such as dementia or Alzheimers. They must also demonstrate the ability to anticipate their patients’ needs when the patients aren’t able to articulate their needs themselves.
The health of elderly patients can be mercurial. Their
immune systems are no longer as robust as they once were, and they’re often
further influenced by other disease processes. Something seemingly routine and
easily treated in younger patients, such as a urinary tract infection, can
trigger a cascade of symptoms that can send many clinicians scrambling. A nurse well-versed
in the care of the elderly will quickly identify the more subtle changes with
A good geriatrics nurse also knows about the best resources to
guide their patients to wellness. For example, making a patient or their family
aware of adult day care centers in their neighborhood can lighten the load of
caring for them during working hours. Asking the physician for a consult with a
neurologist or psychologist for developing cognitive issues, or a urologist for
intractable urinary infections facilitates the patient’s access to timely
treatment. Requesting a referral to a social worker to address neglect or abuse
issues in the patient’s home keeps the patient in a safe environment.
Interested in getting certified in adult-gerontology? Visit NursesGetCertified.com to learn more.
Earning certifications of any kind can definitely help your nursing career. If you work with adults in gerontology, you have a couple of choices. So, how do you choose the one that would work best for your particular situation?
Robin Dennison, DNP, APRN, CCNS, NEA-BC, Director of Nursing Programs at the University of Saint Augustine for Health Sciences, answered some basic questions about the differences between the two for Nurse Practitioners (NP).
Regarding gerontology certifications—specifically the ACNPC-AG and the AGPCNP-BC—what are the similarities between the two certifications? What are the major differences?
The ACNPC-AG (Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certified in Adult-Gerontology) is offered by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) via the AACN Certification Corporation. The AGPCNP-BC (Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner certification) is offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
Both certifications require a passing score on an examination after verification of eligibility. Eligibility for both certifications require a current, active RN license in a state or territory of the United States or the equivalent in another country. Eligibility for both certifications require the applicant to be a graduate of an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program accredited by either CCNE or ACEN. The program must have three separate graduate-level courses in advanced physiology/pathophysiology, advanced health assessment, and advanced pharmacology. They both require a minimum of 500 faculty-supervised practicum hours in the program. Eligibility for both requires submission of an official transcript.
While the fees are comparable, current memberships result in significant discounts. Membership in AACN or ANA results in a discount on the respective certification.
The test blueprints are similar, but the AACN certification has a greater percentage of the exam questions focused on clinical practice. The ANCC certification test blueprint has the majority of questions focused on clinical practice, but it has a greater percentage of questions focused on role-professional responsibilities and health care systems than the AACN examination.
How can nurses determine which one would be the better for them to pursue?
AACN, with its focus on critical care, would likely be the preference for a nurse who was previously a critical care nurse and held the CCRN credential. If the nurse did not have that previous affiliation with AACN, then they may select ANCC. It may even come down to the nurse’s memberships: AACN or ANA and the discounts that are given for the membership.
How could these certifications help them in their careers? Could having one of these help them get better paying jobs? Move up? Be experts in their field?
National certification in one of the advanced practice roles (i.e., nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife) is required for an eligibility for licensure as an advanced practice registered nurse in most states. The board of nursing in the state of residence will specify requirements for APRN licensure as well as standards of practice for the advanced practice role. Advanced practice licensure allows greater autonomy, authority, and generally higher salaries.
Sarah L. Szanton, PhD, ANP, FAAN, professor and director of the PhD program at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing (JHSON), has been named director of the Center for Innovative Care in Aging. Szanton is set to take over the roll in February 2018 from Laura Gitlin, PhD, who founded the center in 2011.
Patricia Davidson, PhD, MEd, RN, FAAN, dean of JHSON, tells Nursing.JHU.edu, “Dr. Szanton is a rising leader nationally and across the globe for her research and innovative solutions for aging populations. We are excited for her to be the next leader of our center.”
Szanton has served as associate director for policy within the Center for Innovative Care in Aging since 2015. She also holds joint appointments within Johns Hopkins and is an adjunct faculty member for international universities including the American University of Beirut and the University of Technology, Sydney.
An expert researcher and practitioner in gerontology, Szanton will lead the Center’s efforts in advancing and supporting the well-being of older adults and their families using innovative approaches, policies, and practices. She is already doing so through her Community Aging in Place—Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE) program, which combines home visits from a nurse, occupational therapist, and handyman to help equip low-income older adults to live more safely in their homes. Her program has helped decrease disability, depression, and improve self care for participants.
To learn more about Szanton’s CAPABLE program and new role as Director of the Center for Innovative Care in Aging at Johns Hopkins, visit here.