A Senior Lecturer in the BSN Program at Kent State University’s Salem Campus, Lorene S. Martin, MSN, RN, CRNP, remains passionate about geriatric care. She explains the reasons why this specialty area is so important and the role that interprofessional collaboration plays in providing comprehensive patient care.
My first nursing job was in a 50 bed intermediate care nursing facility as at the time of my graduation, hospitals were not hiring new graduate nurses. I found it a great way to learn essential nursing skills such as problem solving, organization, prioritization, and critical thinking. However, like most new graduates, I yearned for the excitement of hospital and high acuity acute care. After a year and a half, I moved into that environment and enjoyed all the learning afforded me at that hospital. However, I found myself truly missing the long-term care environment and the opportunity to interact with my geriatric patients. I was offered the opportunity to move into a higher acuity skilled nursing facility and shortly after began my work in roles of administration. Within 2 years, I became the Director of Nursing for a skilled facility with on-site hemodialysis and ventilator patients. I have maintained that relationship, and now 16 years later, have the benefit of taking my BSN students to that facility for part of their adult medical/surgical clinical experience.
I feel that our geriatric population is among the most vulnerable populations in today’s society. It is vital that we treat geriatric nursing as a specialty in that there are unique and atypical disease presentations, pharmacological variations, and sociological needs that many times require more than just the basics of nursing care. Providing this population with the respect and dignity that they have earned, most especially when dealing with end of life issues is both challenging yet highly rewarding. I consistently attempt to instill in my students and other nurses with whom I work, the ability to “listen”….actively….hoping to maybe hear something that is not being expressed in words, yet in body language and tone. I have learned volumes of information from these patients by mastering that skill. Even with those that are suffering from dementia, I find that if you listen closely enough, you will find that they are still there…just communicating in a very different way.
I think the reason I so enjoy the long-term care environment as it is truly grounded in interprofessional collaboration. Working with nursing assistants, therapies, respiratory, dietary, and social services is almost a given in that environment. However, I also find the interactions between housekeeping, activities, and all staff within the nursing home environment and the patients enlightening and valuable. Many times, those providing these ancillary services see or hear something that the rest of us do not! I also encourage spiritual interaction, regardless of denomination, as part of the holistic approach to providing these elders with all that is needed to make their lives meaningful and enjoyable. I often wonder if assuring this type of interprofessional collaboration as part of nursing education shouldn’t be more pronounced. It is so very valuable for nurses to understand the roles of other disciplines and to integrate their services in a more meaningful way in ALL patient care.