With the rapid aging of the American population resulting in more and more seniors in need of continuing medical care, the health care industry has responded by devoting more attention than ever before to the unique treatment needs of elderly patients. The nursing segment of the health care industry has responded with equal vigor, and many nurses now focus their educational endeavors in the field of gerontology – the care of older adults. Gerontological nursing is now one of the fastest growing patient care specialties, and an area in which growth is expected to continue for at least the next several decades.
Gerontology nursing specialists are charged with providing treatment and care within hospitals, nursing homes, private medical offices, and even patients’ homes. These nursing professionals also serve important roles in areas involving administrative, educational, and management responsibilities. Many elder care nurses serve within clinics and community centers, veteran care facilities, and acute care centers for the elderly.
Beyond the traditional educational requirements for a career in nursing, gerontology nursing specialists also take courses designed to provide them with unique specialty care skill sets to help them deal with the diverse range of treatment challenges posed by the elderly. Most programs provide mentoring and advisors who are responsible for arranging for the nurses’ training in areas of health assessment and protection, theories on elder care, analysis of complex cases, management of common conditions endemic to seniors, and pharmacology. In addition, these mentors and advisors help to place gerontology nurses-in-training into clinical environments where they gain critical first-hand experience treating the needs of the elderly.
In some programs, nursing specialists are also given instruction in genomics to enable them to better understand the role that genetics plays in the aging process. As a secondary part of the gerontology education process, genomics helps in the understanding of why certain therapies are more effective in certain types of patients, and why some patient groups are more susceptible to certain chronic conditions than others. Other specialized information provided to gerontology nurses involves nutrition and physical therapy training that can assist nurses in helping the elderly to maintain a higher quality of life through improvement in overall fitness.
Gerontological nursing generally offers a slightly higher salary than standard general nursing opportunities. The latest national averages for this field of nursing indicate an annual salary of more than $ 55,000. As with other jobs in the nursing industry, the salary is dependent upon a host of factors that include geography, the experience level of the nurse, and whether the job is located within a hospital, private office, or home health care setting.
Salaries on both the east and west coasts of the United States can rise to as much as $ 70,000 or more, while those in certain areas of the Midwest tend to be somewhat lower than the national average. However, the benefits afforded to many in the nursing profession, when coupled with the actual salaries, create an overall compensation package that enables most gerontological nursing practitioners to remain near the top of their profession in terms of income earned.
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* Gerontology is the study of aging, something that Aubrey sees as treatable.
What is gerontology?