Geriatrics refers to the majority of elderly patients who are found in nursing homes and assisted living. Certified Nursing Assistant’s (CNAs) help give the residents’ baths, dress them and record their vital signs. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) assess residents’ status, administer medications and monitor and dress wounds. Registered nurses sometimes function the same as an LPN, but mostly supervise the care that the residents receive and work in management positions, making sure that the staff is caring for the residents in accordance with local, state and federal laws.
On a typical day, the LPN works either eight or 12-hour shifts, depending on the facility. At the beginning of the shift, the incoming LPN talks with the outgoing LPN from the previous shift about how their patients are doing for their particular unit. This report gives the LPN an overview of any pressing issues with any of the residents. The nurse then begins their shift performing any number of duties. Those diabetic patients may need medication or insulin administered before their meals, routine medications need to be passed out to the majority of patients, wounds may need to be assessed, charted and treated, and some patients need full assessments in order to comply with their insurance requirements.
Nursing homes are great for new nurses because the majority of patients are stable, and those new to the profession can learn what normal vital signs patients should exhibit as well as what normal lungs should sound like so that they will be better able to catch abnormal lung sounds in sick patients. Nursing homes are also great for those seasoned nurses that are experienced in emergency situations and know when and how to act during a patient crisis.
Of all of the nursing specialties, working with geriatric patients is one of the most rewarding. In my personal situation, with both grandfathers passing away while I was young, it gave me the chance to really get to know older men and learn from them. Patients in nursing homes often become like family to the nurses taking care of them and going to work for a nurse can seem like going to be with family.
I hope this has given you a brief overview of what geriatric nursing is like. With the “baby boomers” increasing in age, this will likely be a field that has more promise than most as far as growth is concerned. Nursing homes now more than ever need good nurses to care for them during their final years.
Justin Glaze is an LPN and contributing columnist for the Walker County Messenger. He can be reached at 678-988-1011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.