In 2006, the oldest of the Baby Boomers, the largest generation in history, began to turn 60 years old, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With the Baby Boomer generation reaching retirement age and slowing down, the demand for geriatric nurses is not. Geriatrics is the specialized care of adults who are age 65 and older. Geriatric nurses assess mental and physical skills, and assist doctors with medical conditions that the elderly commonly experience, such as pressure injuries, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory problems, genitourinary issues, diabetes, and stroke.
Geriatric nurses assist in patient education on health specific issues, as well as how to cope with the mental and physical changes older adults tend to experience. They help their patients to understand health issues related to aging, inform them about disease prevention, and recommend medication adjustments. These specialized nurses not only communicate with their patients, but with the patients’ families who are responsible for their care. They explain health issues to families, offer training on the proper care for their loved one, and help connect them to resources if they need assistance.
Geriatric nurses must be prepared to deal with emotionally stressful situations, since their patients are more likely to deal with financial problems, mental health issues, and death. Since the field of geriatrics involves complicated situations, it is the nurses’ responsibility to provide emotional support, along with basic nursing services. Geriatric nurses must not only be empathetic, but also extremely attentive and watch closely for serious medical conditions that can quickly occur. They work in institutional settings, such as retirement homes, residential care facilities, and hospitals. Another popular option they have is to work in home nursing, either as live-in providers, visiting nurses, or as part of a team of caregivers.
The demand for geriatric nurses is increasing not only because of the baby boomer generation, but because of the fact that with a nursing shortage, the specialized area geriatrics is suffering more than others. The lack of geriatric nurses only means more job opportunities and career mobility for those who pursue it. If you are interested in geriatric nursing, you must hold a current license as a registered nurse, practice full time for two years, and have completed at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice, as well as 30 hours of continuing education in the area of gerontological nursing within the past three years. You must then pass the national licensing exam to receive your Gerontological Nursing Certification and be board certified.