Today in the chart

Geriatric Nursing Is Having a Resurgence. Here’s Why You Should Jump on the Bandwagon.

The senior living specialty is exploding, and it’s not the industry it was decades ago.

I worked nights in a senior living community as a CNA during nursing school. At the time, working the night shift at a long-term care facility didn’t feel as glamorous as my future labor and delivery nursing endeavors. But it ended up being one of the most rewarding milestones of my healthcare career thus far. I still remember most of my residents, their names, their family members, and their funerals. But unfortunately, this long-term emotional connection was seldom conducive in the hospital setting.

Where else could you exchange Valentine’s cards with residents, learn about their favorite TV shows, and celebrate the new hat they bought in anticipation of their next round of chemo?

Here’s why you should consider jumping on the bandwagon, too.

It’s Not the Old Senior Living Industry

About 60 million people will turn 65 by the year 2030, according to Charles (“Chuck”) Borst, LNFA, CP, CDP, CADDCT, and Executive Director of Westminster, a senior living community in Austin, TX. Borst says that the senior living specialty is “exploding.” It’s also not the old senior living industry it was decades ago. Borst assures that these new-school facilities are creating an abundant culture where healthcare staff is critical to helping residents feel fulfilled and age in place.

Lisa Dunlap, an NP, nurse burnout coach, and the founder of Nurse Your Soul says that any job that lowers stress, aligns with your core values, and gives you meaning is a “cool job.” Your ideal nursing specialty might change as your core values and career goals morph over the years. Keeping an open mind to new opportunities that might work well for you is essential.

Senior Living Offers Unique Career Opportunities

You’ll have many opportunities to grow your healthcare career while working in the senior living space.

The career advancements for nurses and CNAs are endless, including:

  • Charge Nurse
  • Director of Nursing
  • Dining Director
  • Activities Director
  • Scheduling Coordinator
  • CNA teacher
  • Facility Educator

After you’ve been a dependable, high-quality staff member, your supervisor will cheer on whatever your career goals are. Should you decide to climb the career ladder in senior living or even pivot to another specialty, your supervisor will likely give you a raving recommendation.

Aside from the concrete career opportunities that geriatric healthcare professionals may experience, it’s an opportunity to improve soft skills, like:

  • Therapeutic communication
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Critical thinking

Geriatric Nursing Features the Human Connection of Old-School Nursing

Many go into healthcare with the desire to help people. But, ironically, this is why they end up leaving healthcare — they feel they couldn’t fulfill that purpose.

According to Borst, senior living is an opportunity not just to provide necessities to seniors but to help them achieve self-actualization the best they can in their current circumstances. This practice is what forms emotionally fulfilling patient-caregiver relationships.

Dunlap, who has worked in many senior living settings over the last 15 years in various roles, says she appreciates the generally slower pace of the work. “Though there is plenty to do… the patient’s needs are not as urgent or as critical. It can be a more meaningful position because you can build long-term relationships.”

Look for a High-Quality Community

Not all senior living communities are created equal. Like any job, do your due diligence on vetting the facility and your supervisors to ensure a healthy work environment.

Borst advises that you should feel hospitality radiate when you walk in. The community should be clean and crisp. It should be clear that the residents are treated with dignity and respect. Even though the unit might be buzzing with call lights, it should be clear that proper care is a priority.

Here are some ways to check the quality of a facility:

  • CMS and quality ratings
  • Resident satisfaction scores
  • Online ratings
  • Turnover rate

Note: Though many communities struggle with turnover in this economic climate, look for a few core staff members that have stayed for over five to ten years. These staff members are your greatest informants of the quality of the senior living community.

Set Yourself Up For Success

Here are some quick tips to ensure you make the most of your time while working in the senior living industry:

  • Confirm your orientation dates and that orientation is a priority for your unit
  • Choose a reputable senior living community to work in
  • Make allies on your team who you can trust and rely on
  • If administering medications, always follow your medication rights and best practices
  • Follow proper body mechanics when assisting residents and performing care
  • Practice new skills as much as possible during orientation and with the supervision of your team

Avoid Burnout

Dunlap says preventing burnout is the key to finding happiness and longevity in any nursing position.

Here are her top four tips:

1. Do a self-audit: Check in with your feelings of burnout, stress, and compassion fatigue.

2. Practice self-compassion and mindfulness: You can employ this research-backed strategy by engaging your five senses, taking deep breaths, and going outside.

3. Practice a pre or post-shift ritual: Take your transition from home to work and work to home seriously.

4. Make a list of what brings you joy: Make time for this in your weekly calendar and make it non-negotiable.

How to Start

No nurse has stuck with one specialty for their entire nursing career. Give yourself the flexibility to try something new or revisit something from your past. Most importantly, your new role should align with your goals, schedule, and work culture. The power is in your hands to build a career that you love.

Are you interested in taking the plunge into senior living? Then, check out connectRN for the best job opportunities available in your area.

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