Second Opinion

In this forum for discussing the important issues facing the nursing profession today, we welcome your thoughts and opinions. Check this space in each issue to see how readers answer the questions we pose.

Our question this issue:
The world is facing what AARP is calling the ‘silver tsunami.’ According to a 2005 Census Bureau report, 1-out-of-5 Americans—some 72 million people—will be 65 years or older by 2030, double the current 12 percent of the population. What areas of expertise will be essential to nursing practice as the population ages?

The results:
(A) Caring for older adults across the continuum of care (13.4%)
(B) Promoting support for family and non-formal caregivers (14.3%)
(C) Understanding the biology of aging and frailty (8.9%)
(D) Promoting mental health among older adults (10.7%)
(E) Preventing and recognizing elder abuse (7.1%)
(F) Addressing aging and substance abuse and HIV (6.3%)
(G) Providing care to address death and dying, including palliative care (10.7%)
(H) Promoting healthy behaviors, independence, and quality of life (17.9%)
(I) Creating useful, meaningful roles for older adults (10.7%)

Total Responses: 112

“Nurses will need to be well versed in providing preventive health services. Teaching exercise and healthy eating will be essential. Nurses will need to know how to motivate elders so that they can manage their chronic conditions. It will also be important for young nurses to promote “long term living” (Hillary Clinton’s term).
We will need to encourage mental fitness as well as physical fitness so Public Health nurses will need to know how to get elders involved in dance, art, writing, and taking courses at the local community college.”

Carm Dorsey, Clinical Instructor (age 62)

“No matter what field of nursing you go into, at some point in your career you will meet with older adults-be it grandparents of pediatric patients, oncology, ED, orthopedics, etc. Some important areas essential to nursing practice for older populations are general medical surgical nursing and specific methods of caring for older adults. For instance, it may be more difficult to assess skin turgor in older adults due to age-related changes. Nevertheless, nurses should be trained to conduct such an assessment.”

Maria Oasan, Accelerated Class of 2008

“One area of expertise that will be essential in nursing care for an older population is the ability to understand how multiple chronic diseases and their medications interact. Nursing care must also incorporate a holistic view of the older patient, including mental, spiritual, and social health, which is just as important as physical care and health. With the aging population, care must have a proactive component that ensures that patients not become stagnant in their development and promotes holistic health.”

Megan Mann, Accelerated Class of 2008

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