The number of nurses who specialize in caring for the elderly has grown over the years. There seems to be an aging population in many countries and this has now called a need for more geriatric nurses. They don’t seem to be as noticeable as pediatric nurses, whom from scrubs alone are evidently who they are. So how do you spot them? How do you realize that you’ve become a full-fledged geriatric nurse?
1. You dress “minimalistic”.
You don’t wear anything too long around your neck. No dangling earrings or decorations hanging in your breast pocket. You don’t want to give your patient something to pull when they suddenly become confused or agitated. Often, you have to work very close to your patients when you help them with their daily activities. You wouldn’t want hanging accessories to end up in your patient’s face, food, and other things.
2. You sometimes talk “louder” than is necessary.
You’re so used to your patients who have hearing impairments that you’re almost always on auto-loudspeaker. And it’s only when you see the puzzled faces of the people in front of you that you realize they’re not deaf.
3. You “mimic” your patients’ symptoms.
Sometimes, you find yourself wandering the hallways of the hospital unable to remember why you were there in the first place. Yes, memory loss and dementia can be contagious at times. Jokes aside, it truly does happen especially when it’s a busy shift and you have too many tasks to remember or you have too many confused patients to handle.
4. You develop a myriad of ways to feed your patient medicine.
Like children, some elderly patients have poor appetite and can be tough to feed. At times, they may use all their will and power against you when it comes to medication time. As a geriatric nurse, you’ve discovered many different ways of getting them to swallow your medicine from using syringes to hiding it in your patients’ favorite food or beverage.
5. You know all different kinds of restraints that can make Christian Grey proud
You’ve mastered the different types of handling your most difficult patients from the least restrictive to the most restrictive. You’ve developed creative methods from using blankets and geriatric chairs to using sedation.
6. You’ve mastered the art of NG tube and urinary catheter insertion.
You’ve had so many patients with long-term NG tubes and those who need intermittent catheterization that you can insert them almost with your eyes closed. Not to mention the patients who’ve also mastered the art of pulling them out and gives you more opportunities to practice.
7. You have fast reflexes and do sprints at work.
You’ve been wary of those confused patients who suddenly decide to pull out their IV cannulas and you’ve developed the reflexes of Spider-Man to stop them. There are also those patients who have karate skills and you’ve become a ninja from deflecting their punches and kicks. You’ve also cared for so many high fall risk patients who suddenly climb out of bed that you practice your sprinting skills at work just to catch them from falling.
8. You’re almost immune to the smell of urine and feces.
As a geriatric nurse, we often help our patients with their toileting needs. Sometimes, too often. Enough said.
9. You have the patience of a saint.
You’ve almost seen them all. Confused, wandering patients. Noisy, repetitive patients. Patients who have visual or hearing impairments that require extra time for communication. There are also those who constantly need help with toileting needs or those who make it extra difficult for you to feed them. Being a geriatric nurse requires much patience and understanding. Over the years, you seem to acquire more patience as you practice.
10. You develop a “geriatric” understanding and appreciation of life.
Hearing a patient who doesn’t know who he or she is or who you are but whispers you a “thank you” is different than from hearing it from someone who is totally lucid. Sometimes, it is more overwhelming. Being a nurse who cares for the elderly provides you with a different perspective of life. You get to see from their eyes. Sometimes you get to see the years they’ve been through, the families they’ve created and the life they’ve lived. Or you can see the opposite; what they didn’t have or was not able to accomplish. You obtain a different sense of what your true goals in life should be. At times, without even your knowledge, your patients can teach you valuable lessons in life that you don’t get to learn elsewhere.