Research Paper: Gerontology Nursing

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Gerontology Nursing

The Relevance and Current Implications of Gerontology Nursing: Literature-Based Evidence

The many different fields that exist in nursing create a host of challenges to those that would become more effective and capable in this profession. Each specific area of nursing knowledge and practice develops both separately and in tandem with other specializations and the profession as a whole, creating much greater volumes of information that must be maintained in order to achieve the level of efficacy and the quality of care that is desired by patients and nurses alike, to the point that it becomes impossible for any practitioner to keep up with advances and progress in a truly comprehensive manner. Even within various specializations, the pace and mount of research being conducted can be prohibitive of remaining truly current and comprehensive in nursing knowledge.

This can lead to questions regarding the real need for the number of specific specialties that exist in the nursing profession, and the degree to which this level of specialization and differentiation is useful. Because of the additional complexities and barriers to comprehensive knowledge growth that such differentiations lead to, it could be possible to argue that such specializations are actually more harmful to overall nursing practice, and that the profession as a whole and the care provided to patients specifically could be improved by decreasing the number of specialized fields that exist and consolidating bodies of knowledge, adjusting the overall framework from which nursing is viewed.

While this might simplify understandings of nursing knowledge and the nursing profession, however, it would not necessarily lead to a better quality of care and could potentially have the reverse effect. As long as a specific field or area of nursing remains relevant to modern practice, the separate classification of this field of nursing is justified and should continue. This paper will examine one specific field f nursing and establish its ongoing relevance in current practice, and will then go on to detail certain specific knowledge elements and best practices as obtained from current research and literature on the topic. This one example of the ongoing relevance and specialized knowledge of a separately classified area of nursing will help to demonstrate the overall need for continuing nursing specializations and the importance of maintaining current knowledge within specialties.

The Relevance of Gerontology Nursing

The population of the United States and indeed of much of the developed world is aging, and as longevity increases and population proportions change older individuals are making up an increasing number of patients at healthcare facilities of all types. In addition, many more individuals are seeking or requiring in home aid from nurses to cope with certain issues of aging and degenerative and/or chronic disorders that can be associated with old age. The older the population gets, the more this will continue to be the case. The medical and nursing professions are thus faced with large and growing numbers of aging individuals seeking assistance and/or care in a variety of settings and situations.

For these reasons, gerontology nursing is incredibly relevant in modern nursing practice, and will only continue to become more relevant as the current population continues to age. All medical institutions, from hospitals to primary care facilities to nursing and assisted living facilities are facing the challenges created by increasing numbers and proportions of elderly individuals seeking care and assistance, and thus all of these facilities can make direct and enormous use of gerontology nurses and the knowledge that is generated by practice and research in the field of gerontology nursing. A greater utilization of these assets will enable these institutions to provide greater levels of care to geriatric patients and to do so in a more efficient manner, which will in turn provide more resources for tackling other medical and nursing issues and potentially developing better practices in all fields.

It is clear, then, that gerontology nursing is still very relevant to modern medical facilities and to the nursing profession, and should remain a specialized classification of nursing due to the high level of practical application for this specialized branch of knowledge. It should also be clear that advancing knowledge in the field of gerontology nursing is also an objective that is highly relevant and useful in the modern era, as increases in gerontology nursing knowledge will increase the efficacy of gerontology nursing and thus the benefits of such nursing to the medical facilities and the patients they serve. The following pages will present certain current findings in the research literature regarding gerontology nursing, hoping to provide a concise way in which to add to gerontology nursing knowledge.

Literature Review

According to a recent analysis of nursing education programs, there is still a basic lack of consensus regarding the relevance and advisability of viewing gerontology nursing as an independent discipline or sub-filed within the larger field and study of nursing (Deschodt et al. 2010). Some schools and nurse training programs have dedicated gerontology courses, clearly identifying the discipline as a worthwhile specialization and area of study, yet many other schools have failed to adopt gerontology-specific training courses (Deschodt et al. 2010). There are signs, however, that more schools and training programs are beginning to develop independent gerontology courses, and most schools without these programs are at least effectively integrating gerontology practices, knowledge, and perspectives in non-gerontology curses, which is encouraging (Deschodt et al. 2010).

Other researchers have found that there is a growing need for social understandings of issues that the elderly face in their daily lives as well as with their health and medical care (Tolson et al. 2011). This is only one of the principles that is essential in gerontology nursing practice, and demonstrates the wide range of considerations, needs, and values important to this specialization within the field of nursing (Tolson et al. 2011). Developing and maintaining this specific and concrete values base is essential for providing gerontology care, and is one of the reasons that the discipline is increasingly recognized as a distinct practice specialty and knowledge area within the field of nursing (Tolson et al. 2011).

The increasing attention to and respect of gerontology nursing as a specialized discipline of nursing has led to the development of specific standards for practice and care for this discipline (Foreman et al. 2010). The specific standards for gerontology nursing have been developed by adapting the standards for general nursing practice (assessment, diagnosis, outcomes, planning, implementation, and evaluation), with the direct needs of geriatric patients and responsibilities of gerontology nursing having been developed for each standard area (Foreman et al. 2010). Important consideration for gerontology nursing standards include determining functional abilities, emotional and psychological responses to the aging process, taking cost and financial restraint into account as a direct influence on care procedures and ongoing care recommendations, and many more specifics (Foreman et al. 2010).

A specific concern that has arisen in the field of gerontology nursing is the rate of depression that occurs among geriatric patients (Phillips et al. 2011). Not only does depression cause a reduction in the quality of life for patients in and of itself, but it can also lead to more significant health problems (Phillips et al. 2011). For this reason, gerontology nurses are required to monitor their patients for the possible development of depression and depressive disorders, and several risk factors for the development of depression that are common in aging patients have been identified to assist in this monitoring (Phillips et al. 2011). For instance, weight loss, urinary incontinence, increased pain, cognitive decline, and any significant change in care needs can lead or contribute to depression (Phillips et al. 2011).

There have also been certain advances not only in diagnosing and addressing specific health concerns amongst geriatric patients, but research and practice in the field of gerontology nursing has also led to the development of specific care practices that can enhance the quality of life for geriatric patients regardless of most specific conditions or situations (Grando et al. 2009). Increasing exercise and including basic activity guidelines as part of the ongoing care recommendations of discharged geriatric hospital patients can lead to increased mobility, reduced health problems, and an overall improvement in the quality of life reported by such patients when compared to populations without such programs and instructions (Grando et al. 2009). It has been found that these programs are actually more practical when they are not administered directly upon discharge, as many patients did not "feel up to" the exercises, but persistent follow up can be very useful (Grando et al. 2009).

Summary of Findings

All in all, the research into the area of gerontology nursing suggests that the discipline and knowledge base is progressing at a fairly rapid rate, with new evidence for best practices emerging all the time. Increasing research opportunities are occurring as hospital and general populations are aging, and the greater number of gerontology patients allows for more thorough and more diverse examination and analysis. From classroom settings to direct practical care environments, as gerontology nursing becomes… [END OF PREVIEW]

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