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Role of adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AGACNPs) in elder care

Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AGACNPs) meet the medical and health needs of elderly patients in many different ways. As well as providing a full range of general care, from managing acute conditions to disease prevention, they can also be employed in trauma wards and intensive care units. Due to the nature of their expertise, most AGACNPs work in tertiary care settings, such as specialist wards or treatment centers. However, some will also care for patients in a long-term care facility or a clinic that specializes in the treatment of a long-term disease, such as cancer.

It is a highly rewarding work environment, but not without its challenges. The level of monitoring is complex, and patients often need treatment plans encompassing multifaceted interventions. The focus in any acute care environment is on improving the health of each patient so they can live the healthiest, most pain-free life possible. As part of this, AGACNPs also work hard to prevent future complications from developing. It’s a fascinating career path for any registered nurse looking to move into a specialization, but becoming qualified can be difficult, especially through the traditional route.

To encourage more skilled nurses to achieve the required certification, academic institutions such as Rockhurst University have created an online MSN AGACNP program that offers more flexibility through a choice of full-time and part-time training. Designed to fit in with the commitments of a working nurse, this course equips students with the advanced skills they will need to succeed through coursework and clinical placements, enabling them to graduate in as little as three years.

How does adult gerontological care differ from general adult care?

Gerontology refers to the aging process, specifically the study of how aging takes place. It is concerned with the ways in which aging affects the body and mind and which illnesses can be related to getting older. It also examines the physiological, psychological, and social elements of aging, and the findings are used to inform elder care. From late adulthood into old age, individuals have unique needs. Their bodies have matured and will develop no further, and their ability to heal has declined.

How do gerontological nurse practitioners care for elders?

AGACNPs have a significant scope of practice and bring a huge deal of experience to every care situation. When older adults are living with a chronic or critical condition, the AGNP will play a key role in their treatment and recovery. What they do daily will depend on the needs of their patients, but their duties are likely to include:

Offering general care on an acute ward

Patients are admitted to acute wards when they have quite a serious condition or their symptoms have come on quickly. People need close attention and care from the entire team, and AGACNPs will be part of this group around each patient. They will establish a treatment plan in collaboration with specialist doctors and then check a patient’s progress through various forms of investigation. The AGACNP may refer a person for a CT scan, blood tests, or an ultrasound to learn more and also assist with daily routines on the ward. Along with administering medications and setting up drips, they will monitor the patient’s vital signs and offer support. It could be through explaining more about an individual’s condition or answering any questions the patient has about self-managing an illness effectively. Once a person is ready to leave the hospital after a course of treatment, an AGACNP will often help to manage their move back home or assist with their transfer to a different care environment.

Carrying out assessments

Assessments are carried out on older adults to learn more about the factors that may be impacting their health and conditions. It can also be a learning opportunity, as the AGNP will suggest how a patient might improve their health outcomes through lifestyle changes, for example, or through more careful compliance with their physician’s recommendations.

A nurse will assess the progress of common conditions affecting older adults, such as diabetes, heart disease, and the aftereffects of a stroke. Even those who are currently prediabetic can be at a higher risk of contracting other chronic diseases, according to the CDC, so assessments form an important aspect of preventative care.

Emergency care

Frequently, adult gerontology nurse practitioners are tasked with delivering specialist emergency care to elderly patients who have been rushed into the ER. Often, the health issue they are presenting with is not related to any chronic disease, but if they are living with an acute condition, it could impact their recovery. Along with driving accidents, many older patients come into the hospital after having a fall at home or outside.

Once they have made their way to the ER, they will be evaluated by a health professional, but this meeting will often be too swift to cover any chronic condition. The hectic and often confusing nature of an emergency environment and extended waiting times mean an elderly person’s symptoms can quickly worsen. AGACNPs will attend not only to help treat the wounds of older adults but also to make treatment plans that consider any existing chronic conditions. Their work takes into account the patient’s complex care needs and gives them the best chance of a positive outcome.

Offering primary care in an independent practice

In some states, AGNPs are authorized to practice independently without needing to consult or work alongside a physician. Working autonomously in a clinic, nurses can spend time with patients and help them make decisions about their care. Part of their role will also involve helping elders maintain their long-term health by conducting routine check-ups, prescribing medication to treat illnesses, and carrying out health-risk assessments.

AGNPs can also ensure their patients stay up-to-date with all their important immunizations and offer screenings for common conditions. Many also provide personalized health counseling focusing on the individual’s medical history, gender, lifestyle, and age to create a highly focused treatment plan.

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