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Proud to be a Geriatric Nurse

In recognition of National Gerontological Nursing Week from September 30 - October 5, 2013, I have spent time reflecting on my career as a geriatric nurse.

I actually began in geriatric care at 17 years old as a nurse’s aide working in a nursing home.  I only started that job because I needed to make some money and my girlfriend’s mother was a nurse and the administrator of the particular facility I was given the job.  I quickly found myself enjoying time with the elderly and saw a real need for advocacy when I’d found residents had not received a bath in a month, and I gave 32 baths in 10 hours.  That was 36 years ago.  The significance of my experiences in that nursing home, along with other stories, my perspective about the elderly, our current care system, and the future of aging  is detailed in my book, *Behind the Old Face: Aging in America and the Coming Elder Boom. 

Ever since I can recall, I have always been one who speaks out and acts for justice, doing the right thing, and protecting the vulnerable.  I am not one to go with the crowd if my beliefs and values call me in another direction; Geriatrics was where my heart called me.  Most don’t know that there is an underlying attitude in healthcare that nurses who work in nursing homes can’t cut it in the hospital or in more “prestigious” areas of nursing like ER, surgery, cardiology, or trauma, but I really believe that those who have that attitude don’t understand the real complexity of serving older patients.  They most likely have not spent any time working in geriatrics or they would find how wonderful it is to help and spend time with the elderly.

Geriatric patients have needs outside of physical health that must be addressed to improve health outcomes.  It’s necessary to understand and address mental health, living environment and safety, support systems or lack thereof, social, emotional, spiritual, dietary, financial, and physical needs, which aren’t typical addressed in evaluating and treating younger patients.  It may be necessary to address a couple of those areas in younger or middle aged adults, but it’s imperative to assess and take all of those areas into consideration when treating older adults.

I have worked and spent considerable time with literally thousands of seniors in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing homes, assisted living residences and private homes, which has helped me become a better nurse by truly understanding the significance of the issues and problems seniors and family caregivers face in their living environments and through the maze of healthcare.  Nurses in other environments don’t typically see or even consider the home environment and how much of that plays into a patient’s health. 

I have found it to be extremely rewarding to help seniors and family caregivers with education, resources, information and referrals that reduces their stress, empowers them to make quick and appropriate decisions, helps them better navigate the healthcare system, helps cut their out of pocket costs, and improves the quality of life, for both the patient and family, if family is involved.

When seniors feel so tossed aside in our nation, the ability to help them feel valued brings me incredible joy.  My life has truly been enhanced by the time I have spent with the elderly.  I’ve cried and laughed, been hit and been hugged, taught and learned, been angry and inspired, been cursed and been praised, have helped heal and helped die, have been frustrated and elated, have saved and have lost, have listened to complaints and heard about their dreams, and I wouldn’t trade any of it.  There is nothing like holding the hand of an elderly person and even with the slightest smile, word, or act, having somehow brightened their day. I’m Proud to Be a Geriatric Nurse!

Guest Blog by Angil Tarach-Ritchey RN, GCM and Pedaogy Author. 

Angil Tarach-Ritchey RN, GCM is a national eldercare expert, author for Pedagogy Inc, and the best-selling and award winning author of Behind the Old Face: Aging in America and the Coming Elder Boom.

*Get a “Look Inside” the book

To view more information about Angil's Pedagogy classes, click the course name below: 

Handwashing Responsibilities in Healthcare
Handwashing Responsibilities in Healthcare Inservice
Handwashing Responsibilities in Healthcare for Administrators

Posted: 10/7/2013 12:07:16 PM
Charles Pitt
having spent a lot of time with elderly relatives, I have noticed they really appreciate company and talking. A great deal of patience is required as I found because of hearing difficulties I had to repeat everything twice.Whenever it came time for me to leave, my elderly aunt would hang onto the car door and follow the car down her long drive.
10/11/2013 10:13:48 PM

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