Life as a Geriatric Nurse

A geriatric nurse, or gerontological nurse, is a nurse who assists in caring of aging and elderly individuals. Geriatric nurses are some of the most essential health care professionals required in the hospitals. They are basically trained to perform need based nursing tasks. Geriatric nurses can also pursue special training which eventually helps them better understand the distinct needs of elderly people.

Being employed as a geriatric nurse is often very gratifying and rewarding. While you choose to become a geriatric nurse, you need to assess yourself personally. Geriatric nurses requires to be of an upbeat and a cheerful personality. Being patient, understanding, empathetic, and compassionate, with a true desire to work with ageing patients are some of the attributes of a geriatric nurse. However, the work can also be frustrating or disheartening at times as well but geriatric nurses should also be able to handle stress and bounce back from depressing events, such as the death of a patient.

Geriartic nurse caring old patient
Geriartic nurse is caring old patient.

In-depth knowledge and skills are needed for the nurses to take care of the elderly patients. Nurses should enquire about the present and past illness of the patients as they are likely to have one or more chronic health conditions. Elder patients need more health care services in comparison to younger ones. Therefore, it is essential for all the nurses to have dedicated knowledge about older adults.

Attributes required of a geriatric nurse

The geriatric nurses should possess these attributes that are listed below:

  • Patience
  • Compassion
  • Empathetic
  • Strong Attention to Detail
  • Creative
  • Consistent
  • Cheerful
Roles and responsibilities of a geriatrics nurse

Geriatric nurses are required to keep patient records and coordinate with the physician’s recommendations. They are not only accountable for patients physical well-being, but for their mental and emotional well-being. There may be times when these elderly patients will appear to be depressed or angry, due to their deteriorating health, lack of freedom, and isolation from their loved ones. As a geriatric nurse, you need to be watchful for patients and try to remain cheerful and compassionate, even during these challenging times.

Geriatric nurses should usually be encouraged to connect with patients’ family members. There’s always a need to explain about patient’s care routine or medications or act as a link  between the family members, the patient, and the doctor.

The following are the responsibilities of a geriatric nurse:

  • Assessment of vital signs
  • Administration of medications and injections
  • Helping patients with their activities of living such as bathing, dressing, and using the bathroom
  • Assist in range of motion exercises and massaging
  • Observing for signs of abuse
  • Assisting physicians during exams and procedures
  • Transporting patients to doctor’s visits and other appointments
  • Making a nursing care plan for the patients based on the assessment
  • Educating family members about a patient’s condition
  • Promoting self-care skills
  • Assess patient’s mental health and cognitive skills
  • Provide a safe environment such as prevention from falls or accidents
  • Oversee the nutritional needs of the patient
  • Maintain accurate and complete healthcare records 
Challenges and overcoming complexities

Geriatric patients often require more physical assistance as their bodies become more complex and complicated with their growing age. Patients in their end-of-life care can be stressful and exhausting which can drain nurses emotionally. Management of chronic illnesses, comorbidities, and medications needs a strong knowledge base and varied range of skills. Geriatric nurses needs to think critically and listen to the needs, wants, and feelings of  the patient.

Nurse helping an elderly patient walk
Nurse helping an elderly patient for walk

Loss of independence could also be a struggle with the elderly patients. Some elderly patients might practice high level of independence, while others would completely rely on their family for activities of daily living. Thus, there are chances that they might fall into feelings of resentment, embarrassment, or grief.

All ageing people are distinct in their pattern of thoughts, capabilities, and world views. The physical strength, memory and senses keep declining with the growing age. It’s imperative to keep an open mind and avoid assuming regarding anything related to the patients. Every patient has their own individual experiences and the lives they’ve lived so far.

Rewards of being a geriatric nurse

Nurses are in contact with patients than any other healthcare worker. Since you work as

a patient advocate, it is essential to understand the need of building a positive relationship with elderly patient and his or her family. It requires high levels of patience, empathy, and compassion. Valuing and forming relationship with elderly patients gives you so much joy and satisfaction in the work. Overall, it is a rewarding and a pleasant experience.

Also, it gives a platform to learn diverse perspective of life and experiences and can lead to better understanding. Patients will be comfortable, feel more supported, will be honest and more cooperative over time, if you respect your patients and express gratitude. If you’re planning to become a geriatric nurse, you must keep in mind that the aging process affects everyone differently.

Career overview for geriatric nurses:

Geriatric nurse work in hospitals, clinics or residential facilities for the elderly. Some may also work as home healthcare nurses. They usually complete their basic nursing education. Some may opt for an additional gerontological nursing degree. There will always be a high demand for geriatric nurse professionals as the ageing population, continues to grow .This would require specialized nurses and thereby would help in expanding their career opportunities. Growing individuals also possess multiple ailments and requires patient focused care. Specialized nursing care can only help improve their quality of life of the vulnerable population.

A day in the life of Operation Theatre Nurse

An operation theatre (OT) nurse assists the surgeons during surgeries. These may be small ones or minor surgeries or big ones also known as major surgeries. Working in OT all day can be very intense, but if you are in a team that’s cooperative and work closely it can be fun too. This is especially true for those who enjoy being part of a surgical team and of course have a lot of stamina.  This stamina is needed not just because they are on their feet the entire day, but are also concentrating on one single task the entire time while they are assisting for surgery.  

What are the responsibilites of an OT Nurse?

A nurse in the OT is expected to have all the skills of a regular nurse and also some specialized skills. She should have a thorough knowledge of the aseptic & sterile techniques, understanding of patient safety and precautions and upto date knowledge of surgical procedures. She should be thorough with the instruments that are used for different surgeries and how they are set on the tray/trolley

The OT nurse will have to shoulder varied responsibilities. She may either be a circulating nurse or a scrub nurse. As a circulatory nurse she will 

  • Monitor the patient before and after surgery
  • Be an advocate for patient and family
  • Manage the personnel, equipment, supplies and environment during the surgical procedures
  • Ensure that all documentation whether related to patient or the surgery is compete

As a scrub nurse she will

  • Work directly with the surgeon in the sterile field handing instruments and other items needed for the surgery
  • Ensure that the sterile field is maintained throughout the surgery
  • Responsible for the counts of instruments, blades, swabs and other items used throughout the surgery 
  • Show quick reaction at times of an emergent situation
What qualities make a great Operation Theatre Nurse?

If you are contemplating taking up OT as your area of clinical practice then these are some of the qualities that you need to possess. 

  • Well organized –It is very important for an OT nurse to be well organized and systematic. You should be aware of the surgeries that you will be assisting for either as a scrub or a circulatory nurse so that you are well prepared. During any surgery every swab, instrument, and sharp have to be counted for. All items on your tray must be counted before, during, and after surgery, to ensure nothing is retained inside the patient.
  • Good observation-While this is a quality that needs to be present in every nurse, it’s very important for the OT nurse to be able to pay attention to every detail that is happening in the OT. This would include listening carefully to what the surgeon is saying, the availability of supplies on the sterile table, monitoring the patient etc. Good observation and attention to details goes hand in hand with being organized. 
  • Team player-The environment in the OT is complex and dynamic with health care workers from different teams working together. These include the surgeons, the anesthetists, the nurses, the technicians, the physician assistants etc. You should have the ability to maintain a harmonious relationship with the team and work together for a successful surgery. 
  • Calm & composed-During surgery, at times things may not go as expected. For e.g the surgery may take a longer time than expected or the patient may develop complications. You must be prepared for all such situations and be able to react in a timely and calm manner. However emergent the situation you should be able to maintain your composure.
  •  Physical and mental strength-As an OT nurse you will be on your feet for hours at a time especially if you have scrubbed for a surgery. You should not be overtaken by fatigue and poor concentration thereby tendency to cause errors.  You also need to be mentally strong to endure the distressing situations that you may have to visualize at times e.g., amputation of a limb, uncontrolled bleeding or removal of an internal organ. Thus, good physical health and mental fortitude is very pertinent for an OT nurse. 
  • Developing skills and being updated-You need to keep yourself updated on the changes that are taking place in different surgical procedures. Spend time in learning the set of instruments that would be required for different surgeries. Improve your skills by taking on responsibilities and volunteering to scrub for different surgeries. The more you practice, the better skilled you would be 

To be an OT nurse you should have completed your basic education in nursing and cleared the state licensure examination. Some hospitals may require you to take on additional certifications. The role of the OT nurses is both unique and challenging and requires diverse set of skills. A good OT nurse is one who knows what needs to be done next and acts accordingly rather than waiting for the request. If you feel you have these set of skills in you and the required physical and mental strength then this is definitely an area that you can look to join