As individuals enter their elder years, the experience isn’t always desirable. You may hear stories of people living full lives well into their 90s with little or no assistance from caregivers. Unfortunately, that’s the exception rather than the rule.
This is especially true as the U.S. population is living longer but not necessarily healthier. Many geriatric patients require specialized care from healthcare professionals equipped to address their unique needs. Graduates of programs like the online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program from The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) can provide this unique care as gerontological nurses.
Gerontological nursing is an essential specialty that focuses on the care of older adults. One vital aspect of gerontological nursing is palliative care, a holistic approach to symptom management and end-of-life care for patients with life-limiting conditions.
When Is Palliative Care Appropriate?
According to the prestigious Mayo Clinic, palliative care is “specialized medical care that focuses on providing relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness. It also can help you cope with side effects from medical treatments.” Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life for both patients and their families by addressing physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs.
Palliative care is often associated with end-of-life care but can be provided anytime during a patient’s illness and in conjunction with other treatments or therapies. For example, a patient living with cancer may receive palliative care during their treatment process. Parkinson’s patients might benefit from a palliative care approach — even if they have many years to live.
Of course, palliative care does come into play should end-of-life scenarios occur. Individuals with heart, kidney or lung failure still deserve to make the most of their living days. Palliative care helps achieve that.
Palliative Care and Gerontological Nursing: A Vital Connection
Geriatric medicine is a specialized field that focuses on the care of older adults, addressing their unique health and social needs. Gerontological nurses are crucial in this sector, providing comprehensive care to older patients and advocating for their well-being.
The connection between palliative care and gerontological nursing is rooted in the understanding that older adults often experience multiple chronic illnesses, functional decline and a higher risk of developing life-limiting conditions. As the population ages, the demand for healthcare professionals skilled in both geriatric and palliative care will grow. The Administration for Community Living (ACL) notes that by 2040, more than one in five adults in the U.S. will be over 65. It’s a statistic that is not lost on experts in the specialty.
“I often tell students that you’re always going to have a job if you work in geriatrics,” shares Janice Whitaker, BSN, MEd, RN, administrator and community liaison for the Tressa Nese and Helen Diskevich Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence (CGNE). “In many geriatric professions, we usually have very steady hours and very steady employment.”
Given this, it’s understandable why nurses would want to pursue a tract focused on gerontological nursing. If it’s a focus you’re interested in, there are ways to expedite your introduction to the specialty.
A Lucrative Career in Gerontological Care Is Waiting
UTA’s online MSN in Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program equips graduates with the necessary skills to excel in gerontology. The program includes coursework focused on providing comprehensive care to older adults, including integrating palliative care.
Although the program does explicitly have courses in palliative care, the curriculum covers essential topics in gerontological nursing and primary care, such as chronic illness management, end-of-life care and the assessment and management of complex health problems in older adults.
Graduates of this program will be prepared to utilize palliative care principles in their practice, ensuring a holistic approach to care for geriatric patients with life-limiting conditions. This preparation includes managing symptoms, addressing emotional and spiritual needs and facilitating discussions about end-of-life care and goals of care with patients and their families.
Students can complete the program in as few as 29 to 33 months. This pace allows individuals entering the field to jumpstart their careers in an expedited manner. Plus, given the rapidly increasing need for gerontological expertise, graduates can rest assured they will have opportunities awaiting them.