There are many reasons that people are attracted to a career in nursing. For example, it is often a social job that allows you to meet a wide variety of people. Another attractive feature is that the work is constantly changing; you don’t know what you will do from one day to the next. And probably the most attractive aspect of nursing is the ability to improve the lives of others.
Another highly attractive feature of nursing is that there seems to be a never-ending list of specializations. Types of nursing include pediatrics, palliative, emergency, surgical, oncology and orthopedic, to name just a few. As the percentage of elderly Americans continues to increase, one type of nursing that will be of critical importance in the coming years is gerontology.
If you are a registered nurse thinking of pursuing a specialized field of nursing, then you may want to consider becoming an adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner.
The Duties of an Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
The tasks of an adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AG PCNP) include taking extensive health histories, performing health assessments, encouraging the adoption of healthy lifestyle practices and managing chronic illnesses. As a nurse with advanced training and skills, you may often work independently and will have a great deal of responsibility to manage all areas of your patient’s care. You may prescribe medicine, recommend other medical specialists, and order and review tests.
An adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner can work in a wide range of areas, including hospitals, retirement communities and private home services.
The AG PCNP and the Elderly
Adult Gerontology primary care nurse practitioners work primarily with the elderly. There is a great demand for nurses who specialize in this area because of the significant increase in the number of seniors predicted over the next few decades.
According to a 2014 report titled “An Aging Nation: The Older Population in the United States” by the United States Census Bureau, the aging population is going to have immeasurable influences on society. “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 … 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.”
Because elderly people require the most healthcare services, nursing in this area will experience a great deal of pressure to meet the needs of seniors.
The Special Challenges of Working With the Elderly
Adult Gerontology primary care nurse practitioners are specially trained to diagnose and treat the multi-faceted, physical and mental needs of elder adults. They play a central role in ensuring their patients can take control of their health and well-being, encouraging them to exercise and eat well. Though NPs promote independence, they need to recognize changes in mobility and mental awareness.
Working intimately with seniors has its own unique challenges because they can be a particularly vulnerable segment of the population. For example, diagnosing an ailment can be particularly difficult because elderly adults may not be as forthcoming as they should be because they fear losing independence. They may attempt to underplay or mask completely a serious symptom for fear that their family will insist they can no longer live independently.
Additionally, the elderly may be at risk of losing their mental faculties to varying degrees, which can also add to the difficulty of a medical diagnosis. Adding further to the complexity of working with the older population is the involvement of family members. On the one hand, as a nurse practitioner you will need to prioritize the needs of your elderly patients and maximize their ability to live independently. On the other hand, you will also need to be sympathetic with the family’s active involvement and their concerns about possibly limiting independence.
The Qualities of an AG PCNP
Becoming an AG PCNP is not for everyone. Working with the elderly requires not only top-notch professional abilities, but a particular set of personal skills, such as compassion and patience. Keen observational abilities are also important when a patient may be ashamed of a new symptom (such as incontinence) or trying to hide an ailment that could impede their independence. Strong communications skills are also vital — not only to communicate with patients, but with their families as well.
As an elderly adult comes to terms with a loss of independence and their own mortality, you may have to deal with a lot of anger and confusion.
The Rewards of Being an AG PCNP
The rewards, however, are immeasurable. As an adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, you will enhance the quality of life of a senior and make their last years more active and meaningful. It is a career where at the end of each day you know you truly did make a difference in someone’s life.
- What Is the MSN in Adult Gerontology Primary Care Degree?
- What Is the Difference Between Acute Care and Primary Care Nurse Practitioners?
- What Is the Job Outlook for Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners?
- Competencies for Primary Care of the Older Adult