Essential Skills for a Geriatric Nurse

Posted in Career Blog

Geriatric nursing is a profession in which you will be working directly with elderly patients on a day to day basis. You may work in a nursing home, in a hospital or in a hospice facility. The following skills will help you provide better care to your patients and allow you to be more successful in your chosen career path.

Communication Skills

Elderly patients often suffer from one or more conditions—such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, which can make communication difficult. As such, you will need to learn techniques for speaking with your patients. Generally, this will involve speaking in tone of voice that is clear and loud but non-threatening at the same time. You will need to speak slowly and in short sentences, as well. In many cases, you will need to use body language and other forms of communication aside from standard verbalization in order to help your patients better understand you. Similarly, you will need to develop the skills required to obtain information from your patients, particularly when they are ill or in pain.

Occupational Skills

You will be required to provide basic nursing care to your patients that involves administering medications, monitoring their vital signs and watching for any changes in their overall conditions, but as a geriatric nurse, you will also be required to assist patients with all of the activities of daily living. This means you may need to help your patients dress themselves, apply makeup, brush their hair, bathe, use the restroom and more. Aside from simply providing assistance, you will also need to help your patients do as much as they can on their own so that they can maintain a sense of freedom.

Nutrition and Hydration Skills

There are many reasons why the geriatric patients in your care may not eat or drink as they should. They may be suffering from dementia and therefore simply forgetting to eat or drink, they may be suffering from depression, or they may be taking medications that suppress thirst and appetite. You will need to develop skills that will allow you to pick up on these things and help your patients get the nutrition and fluids they need. This means that you should offer healthy snacks and water throughout the day at regular intervals, and you should also get to know your patients’ favorite foods and drinks to make nutrition and hydration more appealing to them.

Safety Skills

Geriatric patients are at a greater risk for falling than the rest of the population. In fact, falls account for the leading preventable cause of death in elderly patients who reside in healthcare facilities. You will need to closely monitor your patients, perhaps even helping them with ambulation from time to time. Patients who are unable to walk on their own will need your assistance to move from one location to the next, as well. Finally, geriatric patients who are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may become confused and therefore agitated at times. You will need safety skills to calm the patient and prevent possible injury to the patient, other patients, and even yourself.

Geriatric patients require a specialized level of care that goes far beyond basic nursing. Aside from the ones listed here, you will also need to possess compassion and empathy, the ability to communicate with physicians and family members regarding the health of your patients, and plenty of patience.

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