Gerontological nurses are a very special group of people. The knowledge base one must have to be a G.N. is quite broad. Often, nurses who commit their lives to serving the elderly are often dismissed by fellow nurses as 'burnouts' who 'couldn't handle real nursing' [i.e., acute care]. Most Gerontological nurses work in community health and long term care settings [although they are found in a plethora of other settings as well].
From someone who has done both, I can tell you-- the assessment skills you must have in order to be a successful Gerontological nurse go far beyond ordinary assessment skills. You must know first of all, what is normal, what is normal for the aging body, and then, what is pathological for the aging body. It is more complicated than it sounds. When I worked acute care, it was a piece of cake. If we weren't sure about something, we called the resident on-call... who was there in a matter of minutes. If we needed x-ray, EKG, lab, CT scan, all support services were readily available. In my setting [long term care], you had to try to figure out what each individuals norm was, and try to piece together what may be going on with the patient. This is especially important when you are calling a covering physician on a Saturday night at 10:00 p.m. who really doesn't know the patient, or wonders why you're wasting his or her time [especially when they would ask you what the patient's code status was]. More than once, I had a covering physician laugh at me and say 'well... he [or she] is a no code, what do you want me to do for him [or her]. " This is where your patient advocacy skills must come into play as you tactfully explain 'DNR' does not mean 'Do not treat.'
Many times, being a good Gerontological nurse means just being a good listener, using your psychology skills. The patient may be making multiple somatic complaints, and the more time you spend with them, the more the loneliness and depression pokes it's head through. If you take the extra 10 minutes during these times, and talk with the person.... The somatic complaints disappear.
Being a good Gerontological nurse also means being receptive to the past. Many times my patient's feel that I need to know about what life was like for them growing up. I have learned a wealth of information about what life was like growing up in the 1920's and 1930's [sometimes sooner]. One of my patients even once told me how she remembered the sinking of the titanic [she was a young girl of 12 at the time].
Being a good Gerontological nurse means not only trying to maintain health for your older adult patient, but also respecting when to let go, and helping your dying patient and their family any way you can. You help your patient by providing comfort care, and being present and helping them to maintain their dignity and you help their family by your loving support.
I have waffled on enough. I guess you can kind of tell that I love being a Gerontological nurse. You can learn much more by visiting some of the organizations I belong to, such as:
http://www.geron.org/ http://www.ngna.org/ http://www.mmhc.com/nhm/ http://www.ncgnp.org/
Also if you go to the site:
and click on 'american nurses credentialing center' you can find the description of both a generalist Gerontological nurse and a Gerontological clinical nurse specialist and a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner [which Is what I am]. The site is very well done and should give you a ton of information!!!
I hope these help.... Good luck with your paper.