Of all the professions associated with the healthcare industry, the certified gerontological nurse practitioner (CGNP) career may potentially provide the most rewarding experience, especially for people who are sympathetic toward the special needs of the elderly and are appreciative of the life lessons that older patients can provide their caregivers. The practice of gerontology—which is named from the Greek words “geron,” meaning “old man,” and “logia,” which translates to “the study of—refers to the social, psychological, cognitive and biological aspects of aging.
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Registered nurses who hold bachelors and masters degrees in nursing, as well as being board-certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, may be well qualified to hold such positions. You can typically find gerontological nurses working in nursing homes, hospices, and in private practice.
Gerontological nurse practitioners serve a unique role because they not only have several years of experience as registered nurses; they also have in-depth knowledge of geriatrics and are trained in the treatment of acute and chronic illnesses. Nurses often take a more holistic approach to medicine, which is why the elderly may respond more positively to their carei. Their qualification allows them to examine patients and diagnose their specific ailments and prescribe the appropriate medication—duties that would ordinarily be part of a physician’s care.
Gerontological care continues to increase as millions of baby boomers reach retirement age and then demand more attention from the healthcare systemii. Americans over the age of 65 and older make approximately 298.4 million visits each year to doctors’ offices, hospital outpatient facilities and emergency rooms for various reasons, putting great demand on the healthcare system. Even though the life expectancy rate for older Americans has risen in the last few decades, with women living an average of 85.5 years and men living an average of 82.9 years, elderly Americans continue to suffer and eventually die from a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory disease.
Just because a person is past a certain age, however, does not necessarily mean that he or she has the kinds of ailments that are typically treated in a hospital setting. For the 7.5% of Americans aged 65 and older who receive care outside of institutional settings, the services of a gerontological nurse practitioner are priceless. Home healthcare, a growing sector of the American healthcare industryiii, is beginning to replace the typical 5.5 days that many seniors over 65 incur in non-federal/short-stay hospitals, and is being replaced by the more holistic gerontological care that such nurses provideiv.
Qualified gerontological nurses who are eager to pursue this growing field should possess a multi-disciplinary approach to their care, including knowledge of the aging body and the treatments that are most suitable for the elderly. Gerontological nurse practitioners are often caring, personable individuals who enjoy being around the elderly and are well equipped to deal with their diverse needs as well as counseling family members on the care of their loved ones.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the gerontological nurse practitioner field is expected to grow 34% by 2022v, particularly as federal health insurance programs provide health insurance and care to more and more eligible Americans. The top states for employment prospects, according to Bureau statistics, include Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon.
An appreciative patient population, the opportunity to make a difference in the life of an older person, a true sense of accomplishment, and knowing that you are helping to make your patient’s life more comfortable are all benefits to being a gerontological nurse practitioner.
i scienceofcaring.ucsf.edu/health-public/gerontological-nursing-heart-effective-care-elderly | ii bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-6 | iii bls.gov/emp/ep_table_203.htm | iv takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/healing-environment/what-happening-healthcare-settings-today | v bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm
discovernursing.com/specialty/gerontological-nurse-practitioner | gapna.org/about-gapna | cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/older-american-health.htm | bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-6 | bls.gov/oes/current/oes291171.htm | discovernursing.com/specialty/gerontological-nurse-practitioner#.VSQa1_nF_s4