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Best Practices for Nurses Working With Geriatric Populations

In healthcare, everyone deserves care that addresses their specific needs. This includes the geriatric population — among which geriatric nurses play a key role. Geriatric care is becoming even more in demand as the elderly population with chronic illnesses grows by the day.

According to Incredible Health, geriatric nurses not only care for older patients. They also “assist with administering medications, educating patients and caregivers, and guiding daily activities. Their patients can have a range of health conditions…”

Nurses within this profession must care for all patients holistically and compassionately. This means nurses need to form strong bonds with their patients, as they may ultimately be the ones seeing geriatric patients through their last passage of life.

As Incredible Health notes, these nurses have many responsibilities, including administering medications, collecting blood samples and tests, exercising and massaging patients, helping patients with daily tasks and more.

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) — Gerontologic Clinical Nurse Leader online program at the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) equips graduates with foundational nursing skills and specialized knowledge to care for older populations.

Six General Principles Central to Geriatric Care

All nurses must adopt and follow six general principles for geriatric care throughout their practice. APTA Geriatrics notes that these general principles must apply to all patients, regardless of outpatient health or home health status. The principles include:

  • Use person-centered care to prioritize the individual’s preferences, values and goals.
  • Practice anti-ageist care.
  • Conduct holistic assessments and evaluations to guide the treatment plan.
  • Complete interventions by providing positive physical therapy care rooted in evidence-based practice.
  • Encourage physical activity to promote health, well-being, chronic disease prevention and enhanced mobility.
  • Prioritize interprofessional, inclusive and collaborative practices.

Specific Challenges of the Geriatric Population

Older adults need the same kind of compassion and safety from nurses as every other demographic of patient. However, there are a handful of best practices unique to geriatric care that nurses should know.

For example, many geriatric patients do not understand their health challenges and why certain health changes are happening. They may be experiencing hearing loss, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or various other illnesses that perplex them. When this happens, nurses must discuss their condition with them thoroughly and help them understand they will receive the best care possible.

Additionally, some patients might not want to take medication(s) that have been prescribed to them because it makes them feel worse than before. During this period, nurses should encourage patients to practice medication adherence and remind them of the advantages of doing so. They can also look at other holistic ways to help their patients outside of ingesting prescription or over-the-counter medicine or undergoing invasive measures.

All geriatric nurses should talk to patients in a manner that shows respect and kindness, which geriatric patients often need. It can be a difficult transition for geriatric patients; they are accustomed to the wellness they had when they were younger and have a hard time accepting this new era of their life.

Geriatric patients often become upset because they want to perform tasks independently — but they do need help from nurses and caregivers. Geriatric nurses need to recognize that it is okay for patients to do things by themselves at certain times, but they should be available to help when needed. Patient safety is of utmost importance.

Cultivate Compassion as a Geriatric Nurse With a Master’s Degree

One way to cultivate compassion as a nursing professional is to further your career and earn your MSN degree. Those who enroll in the MSN – Gerontologic Clinical Nurse Leader online program at ULM can advance their practice in acute care or other clinical environments.

Nursing students will help improve the quality of patient care for adult gerontology. They will also learn to thrive in an evolving healthcare landscape.

This intensive program allows students to explore various healthcare delivery models, managed care, regulatory influences and legal issues in pharmacology. For example, the Role Development for the Clinical Nurse Leader course covers the basics of the obligations of a nurse leader and the types of tasks they uphold. In the Social Gerontology course, students explore social aspects of aging and changes within the lifecycle of an individual.

Each future geriatric nurse will obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to enter influential roles in the healthcare field, such as chief nurse officer, chief executive or administrator. With the accelerated nature of the program, they graduate in as few as 20 months.

Learn more about the University of Louisiana Monroe’s MSN — Gerontologic Clinical Nurse Leader online program.

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