F1 grads: Committed to the well-being of the elderly?
For F1 and OPT students weighing out their next options beyond studying in the US, a stocktake of your skills and what you want to do in your career is essential. For nursing students wishing to remain in the US, a unique skill set can net you a path to remaining stateside as a practicing nurse in the nursing home sector.
It’s a unique career path that leads through nursing homes, often called long-term care or retirement homes. It requires a unique set of skills to follow this progression path, but it’s often a great path of entry into a long-term solution to your work-life goals. You can work with a variety of different patients, be they disabled or increasingly dependent on their needs.
Most often, you’ll need to be a champion of the elderly, especially given the growing intake of older patients of the Baby Boomer generation. Leisure Care recently revealed that
“Experts estimate that the boomer generation will bring a 75% increase in people over the age of 65 needing senior care, to nearly 2.3 million people by 2030.”
To be good at long-term care nursing, you’ll need to commit yourself to the well-being of a growing elderly population. Regardless of their situation, this populace is a collection of patients that is better educated, lives longer, but may also be more lonesome and reliant on friends in the most unlikely places.
So are you ready to meet the growth of patients?
Elderly Care Interests
As we mentioned, older patients are a critical focus group in long-term care. Experience or interest in gerontology can be helpful for nurses. Facing chronic injury or disease and becoming increasingly dependent to get through the day-to-day, the needs of the elderly mean nurses must steel themselves for some of the everyday issues that come with care for the elderly.
Many of the skills you need to be a long-term care nurse are those that are important for nurses everywhere. You should be compassionate, professional, and friendly. But there are some key skills that can help you to succeed in this rewarding specialism.
Attention to Detail
Long-term care nurses are often the first line of defense for patients. Being able to notice the small changes that could be red flags for bigger problems is a vital skill. Much like when traveling, nurses working in long-term care must walk the fine line between vigilant and good-natured in recognizing and handling new health challenge patients are grappling with.
Handling Life-Altering Circumstances
Effectively, the last point was about getting in front of the inevitable and identifying truly life-altering health changes. Alzheimer's is a common development in long-term care for patients. According to veteran long-term care nurse Regina Mason, proactivity in dealing with the disease is critical to the care of the patient and the relationship of the facility with loved ones.
“Being proactive and having discussions regarding end-of-life care is difficult for older adults, their families and healthcare providers alike,” Mason said. “I’ve dealt with the challenge of end-of-life issues with older adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia by having discussions prior to a crisis,” she said.
For many patients with chronic or long-term conditions, the best kind of care is preventative. Understanding how factors like diet can impact a person living with a chronic condition can help nurses to provide better care.
Be a Great Listener
Patients can be under long-term care for years and being able to connect with patients, families, and healthcare professionals within a long-term setting are crucial. Active listening is a big part of this competency. Lillee Gelinas of American Nurse Today put the importance of effective listening in perspective in the face of numerous new distractions.
Smartphones, video games, and computers can grab our attention more effectively than another human. Learning to listen and observe takes time and practice—and often a good mentor, too, who can give you feedback.
But she adds that if done properly, listening serves as a great gauge to show patients or their relatives that you care and are engaged.
End of Life Care
Sadly, the inevitably of life is a crucial part of a long-term care nurse’s job. In short, you and your colleagues will play a key part in supporting patients who are moving towards the end of their life. Acceptance of this reality, coupled with time and experience in the practice of it, allows nurses to help people live their last moments with dignity and kindness.
At Conexus Medstaff, we’re passionate about building healthcare careers in the US. We’re keen to help graduates (and experienced nurses) from overseas embark on a career in nursing in America. To help you recognize what to expect from a career in long-term care nursing, download our free Guide to Long-Term Care Nursing Careers today.