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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.

Build the Basics

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.

Understand the Psychosocial

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.

Assessment Skills are Critical

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 accuracy.

Know Your Resources

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.

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Elizabeth Binsfield, BA, RN

Elizabeth Binsfield, BA, RN, has been a Virginia registered nurse for over twenty years. She's also been writing in some fashion since she was a child. Today she combines both of her passions by writing about health and wellness for the industry and the consumer. She lives on a small hobby farm with her husband and a varying number of animals.
Elizabeth Binsfield, BA, RN
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