Nursing profession is most important in the care of the older adult. I so much agree on this notion and I believe it is true. The older adult, just like every other individual is a biopsychosocial being and therefore requires care that cuts across every aspect of his life and for this care to be given, it involves many disciplines/profession; but the nursing profession stands as an intermediary between these professions providing care in order to meet the older adult’s needs which is multidimensional. This autonomic profession is unique in function and responsible in providing holistic care.
The developmental stage of the older adult is quite challenging and therefore requires a profession that will be capable of meeting this demanding task. The nursing profession is outstanding in providing needed care not just for the survival but also for a better quality of life of the older adults. As I discuss in this essay, I shall make this view point clearer and convincing.
The nature of nursing care of the older adults. The International Council for Nurses (2003) defines nursing as: “Nursing encompasses the autonomous and collaborative care of individuals of all ages, families, groups and communities, sick or well and in all settings”. This definition gives us the knowledge that the older adult among other age groups needs health care involving an interdisciplinary team. Among members of this team, the geriatric nurse plays a very important role in caring for the older adult. The nurse considers the older adult as a biopsychosocial being and thus gives a comprehensive, holistic and transcultural care to the older adult which cuts across his physical, social, cultural and psychological life.
The physician is only interested in the disease condition, the psychologist is interested in the behavior and state of mind, and the sociologist is interested in the environment. All these professionals and others consider only an aspect of the older adult’s life. On the other hand, the nursing profession stands to care for the older adult as an individual, considering all aspects of his life that he is made off (biological, social, psychological, cultural and spiritual). The nursing profession is capable of giving the older adults all they need for survival and good quality life at their “doorpost”
The gerontological nurse has many roles: provider of care, teacher, manager, advocate, and research. As a provider of care, the nurse gives direct care to older adults in a variety of settings. The teaching of gerontological nurses often focuses on modifiable risk factors (e.g., healthy diet, physical activity, stress managenent). Gerontological nurse managers balance the concerns of the elderly, family and nurses and other interdisciplinary health team members. As an advocate, the gerontological nurse empowers elders by helping them remain independent and strengthen their autonomy and decision making. Being a research consumer requires nurses to read the latest professional literature for evidence-based practice to improve the quality of nursing care for the elderly. (Kozier & Erb, 2008). As a teacher, she is patient enough to help the older adult their health and health care procedures despite the decreased functioning of the organs and systems responsible for cognitive reasoning.
Jones, an associate Professor at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland quotes: “Because nurses are the professionals that typically spend more time at the bedside than other disciplines, nursing assessment is very important in the plan of care for patients,…that nurses have been trained to view patients in a comprehensive or holistic manner, taking into account more than the patients’ physical needs. “This perspective translates well to caring for older adults, who often have complex health problems, social situations, and care giving needs,”” (Jones, 2009, www.agewell.com)
The gerontological nurse work in variety of setting in caring for the older adult. The gerontological nurse plays a principal role in the care of the older adults across all the health care facilities/settings of the older adults. The older adults are the primary users of health care facilities to rehabilitation, long term care and community. While it is true that older adults compose more than 80% of nursing facilities such as nursing homes, in countries such as the US, they also use close to half of all hospital days, a quarter of ambulatory visit and more than 70% of home health services(Karen, 2013, www.nursingtogether.com). Since the nursing homes and other health facilities of the older adults are mostly occupied by older adults, it signifies that nursing enterprise is just too significant in their care.
In acute care settings, nurses focus on protecting the health of the older adult. Examples of nursing activities in this setting include preventing nosocomial infections e.g., pneumonia; preventing complications e.g., pressure ulcer; treating the health problems that resulted in the older adult’s admission plus assessing for potential undiagnosed health problems. The nursing profession is the only profession among the medical professions capable of applying the principles of health protection and promotion that will help save the older adult from other problems.
In long term care facilities the objective of nursing care is to provide a place of safety and care to attain optimal wellness and independence for each individual(Stanley et al; 2005, in Kozier & Erb, 2008, P.409). Because the older adults (referred as residents in this health facility) spend a very long time in this facility, the nurse spends most of the time with the older adults more than every other members of the health care team. In this facility the nurse is known as the older adult’s best friend.
In hospices, majority of the clients are the older adults. Gerontological nurses are involved in caring for dying persons and their families. The gerontological nurse uses her patience and compassion skills in the hospices in providing care.
In the community, the gerontological nurse provides nursing care in many types of community setting e.g., home care, Nurse-run clinics and Adult day clinic. She accesses the older adults needs and tries to match the need with a community resource.
Gerontological nurses are everywhere and can be everywhere for the older adults. Considering the variety of settings where the geriatric nurse functions in caring for the older adults, it simply gives one the idea that no other professional enterprise can do this other than the nurse. In these settings, the nurse avails herself applying patience, expertise, understanding, interdisciplinary communication, advocative and compassion skills in caring for the older adult and the family. The gerontological nurse is therefore regarded as the “middle man” connecting other disciplines in order to render effective and efficient care to the older adults and their families.
There is an increasing demand of geriatric nurses worldwide for the care of the increasing population of the older adults. Globally there is a great increase in the population of the older adult. “According to the World Health Association, the world’s population aged 60 and over will more than triple from 600 million to 2 billion in the next forty years.” (Karen, 2013, www.nursingtogether.com). This has resulted in increasing demand of the geriatric nurses in meeting the health care needs of this increasing group because the older adults need the nurses to survive. Karen explains that there is a growing demand for the skilled geriatric nursing work force to provide quality care across wide range of health care settings (Karen, 2013, www.nursingtogether.com). This increasing demand of the geriatric nurses is a reflection of the importance of nursing services in the care of the older adults.
Ranking position (rating) of the Nursing Profession among other professions Among the medical profession and members of the health care team, the nurses are usually the most preferred. Medical professionals are among the most trusted people in the United States, a new Gallup survey shows, with 85% of survey respondents ranking nurses highest for honesty and ethics, followed by pharmacists (75%) and physicians (70%)…”This poll consistently shows that people connect with nurses and trust them to do the right thing,” said American Nurses Association President Karen A. Daley, PhD, MPH, RN, in an association news release. (www.diabetesincontrol.com, December 13, 2012).
The older adult is considered “fragile” because of the changes that have occurred in his body systems over the years reflecting in reduced level of functioning, perception, activity, behavior and general living. Therefore a profession that maintains high morality, truth, trust, integrity, and ethical principles and respect for the older adult not intruding to his privacy, disregarding his personality and underrating his ego is what the older adult requires. For example, a gerontological nurse rendering a home care service is not expected to steal the older adult’s belongings because the nursing profession upholds truth which is visible worldwide.
Conclusion The nature of nursing care, the increasing demand of gerontological nurses, and diversified health care settings for the older adults where nurses are the front-line care givers; all these and many more have projected nursing to the top among all other professions and enterprise in rendering services to the older adults which is dependent in their survival and quality of life.