Today, 8.5 percent of people worldwide (617 million) are aged 65 and over. By 2030, one in every 5 Americans will be of retirement age. In Canada, 23% of all Canadians will be 65 or over. Will health care grow at the same rate and be prepared for this shift in demographics? There is a shortage of doctors and specialists who take care of geriatric patients leaving most care to fall to nurses and other healthcare providers.
The Hard Facts on Geriatrics
- Fewer than one percent of registered nurses and three percent of advanced practice registered nurses are certified in geriatrics.
- Nurses often receive some type of training in working with older patients, then take other career paths.
- There isn’t enough nurse training in the skills needed to care for older patients.
- There is no specific emphasis on older people, even though Certified Nursing Assistants will commonly work in long-term care facilities.
CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) get basic training in checking for vital signs and helping patients with activities for day-to-day living such as teeth brushing, shaving and getting dressed. Learning on the job at a senior facility is the best way they can attain the necessary training to take care of seniors.
Many nursing students, however, have a negative impression and attitude toward working with older adults. Most of these impressions are based on misconceptions and the idea that pediatrics is a more favourable branch of nursing. Many people associate working with seniors as somehow degrading and nurses feel that geriatrics is not a smart option. But there is a demand for geriatric nurses and they must be capable of handling patients with multiple chronic conditions. The challenging nature of the work can be a draw for some nurses who realize it is a field in which they can learn more and also put their current training to good use.
At the moment geriatric nursing tends to pay less than other types of nursing even though it is more demanding, more tiring and more specialized. It is also an area of nursing where new graduates are greatly needed. To read the full article on nursing and geriatrics, click here.