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Competencies for Primary Care of the Older Adult

As healthcare continues to develop and the lifespan of the populace increases, elder care has become an urgent social and political issue.

The ramifications of a growing senior population are important to the healthcare industry. Nurses who focus on senior care face a unique set of challenges, so they need special preparation if they are to excel in this increasingly demanding field.

Competencies for Primary Care of the Older Adult

Why Is Elder Care So Important?

In a 2014 paper titled “An Aging Nation: The Older Population in the United States,” the U.S. Census Bureau underscored the significant increase in the number of elderly and the effect it would have on the population. The paper stated that, “Between 2012 and 2050, the United States will experience considerable growth in its older population. In 2050, the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double its estimated population of 43.1 million in 2012.”

Those numbers are especially staggering when you consider the effect seniors have on hospitals, senior care centers and healthcare professionals. The Census Bureau goes on to note that, “The aging of the population will have wide-ranging implications for the country. … The projected growth of the older population in the United States will present challenges to policy makers and programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. It will also affect families, businesses, and health care providers.”

The influence that the elderly will have on almost all facets of society in the coming decades is impressive. Employment, education, social programs, taxation, mental health care services and community planning will all experience the effects. Nurse practitioners with a specialization in the care of older adults play a pivotal role in helping not only the elderly but also the younger population because these demographic changes affect everyone.

What Skills Do Nurses in Gerontology Need?

Gerontological nursing requires a particular skill set, determination and training to meet the many physical, mental and spiritual needs of an aging populace. In general, a career as an adult gerontology nurse practitioner best suits those who are empathetic, communicative, organized and comfortable working independently.

For nurses working directly with the elderly, another key competency is compassion. Healthcare professionals will not only need to be sympathetic toward their patients but also their patients’ families as they come to terms with a loved one’s increasing frailty.

The ability to collaborate with others will also be important because often a range of healthcare professionals contribute to the care of an individual elderly patient.

Patience is critical. The inevitable changes in mobility and hearing can affect a caregiver’s interaction with older patients. Patience is essential when dealing with a frustrated, angry and frightened patient facing an impending loss of independence.

The Best Preparation

Nurses working with older adults face a unique set of challenges. To respond to these demands, it’s vital that nurse practitioners in this field get the best preparation possible.

The University of Texas at Arlington — accredited by CCNE — offers a comprehensive graduate nursing degree program that offers many advanced nurse practitioner degrees, including a Master of Science in Nursing in Adult Gerontology Primary Care. Students can complete this degree in as few as 29 months.

The degree program provides students with all the knowledge and skills they will need to successfully meet the healthcare demands of senior patients. For example, in Advanced Pathophysiology, students gain an extensive understanding of pathophysiology with a focus on the principles of biochemistry, molecular biology and nutrition as they apply to disease processes. The Advanced Pharmacology course features an in-depth examination of clinical pharmacological therapeutics for advanced nursing practice.

For working nurses, an especially attractive feature of UT Arlington’s Master of Science in Nursing in Adult Gerontology Primary Care is that it’s offered online. By pursuing their studies online, students will have the flexibility to manage their coursework in a way that accommodates their existing personal and professional obligations.

Caring for an elderly population is a rewarding but challenging career. For those prepared to pursue such a calling, it is imperative you have the right competencies and education to meet the unique needs of older adults

Learn more about Master of Science in Nursing in Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Online.

Related Articles


United States Census Bureau: An Aging Nation: The Older Population in the United States

American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Competencies to Improve Care for Older Adults

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