June 25, 2005
We received just a few emails from geriatric nurses. This Canadian nurse shares her experiences and passion for the work she does. We should all be as fortunate as the patients she cares for!
I am a Registered Practical Nurse and I love my job. I have worked in a long term care facility for more than 25 years. Working with seniors has been the most rewarding job. The stories they can tell you about their lives are most inspiring.
A gentleman in the facility told me how he lied about his age to get into the navy at the time of the 1st World War. He shoveled coal in the engine room on a ship. He described an instance in which the crew was all called up on deck. The crew watched as they passed through a mine field in the English Channel. The mines passed by the ship with only inches to spare.
Another senior told me how she walked a mile to work each day, coming home for a lunch and walking back to work and then home again at the end of each day. Her feet were all crooked with huge bunions and corns from improper footwear. But she never complained.
Through the years I have seen hundreds for residents live with us for many years. Sometimes they are only with us for a few short months. You get to know these people sometimes better than their own families. As they pass onto a better place, I try to provide them with the respect and dignity that they deserve. I also provide families with the comfort and reassurance to help them get through an often very difficult time.
My own grandmother passed away at this facility after living there for more than 13 years. It was so sad to come in after her last stroke, unable to talk but did not even recognize her three grandchildren and her own son. They were all cried as they couldn't console her just as she used to do for them many times in the past.
I share this experience with most families and let them know that it is OK to tell their loved one to move on. I also let the families know that my grandmother loved to have us lay with her on the couch when she came to visit when I was a child. That last week of her life, I slept with her every night and I held her head in my lap as she peacefully slipped away. Some families are so grateful because they feel it isn't appropriate as the facility may frown upon this.
Nursing in geriatrics has been the best job. Yes, the job can get extremely stressful but the rewards outweigh them 10 times. To put a CD on and listen to several residents singing to "Good Night Irene" or "Jesus Loves Me," while others who can no longer talk, move their feet to the beat of the music; just melts my heart.
My goal before I retire is continue to love my job while teaching new nurses how to give these seniors that respect and dignity that they greatly deserve.
I am a geriatric nurse on a locked ward unit, this unit consist primarily of veterans of various wars,illnesses,and personalities, a great many of them are very combative physically,mentally and emotionally to the staff of nurse that I work with, the families of these veterans have lived with these men all their lives and bring them to me an expect me to make them something that they are now, I am not in denial with family members about there love ones condition,they are going to die from the disease of their brain dying and a secondary condition caused by the illness. This has really taken a toll on me and I really hate to go to work most day, because I don't feel that I am making a difference,what it has done is made me afraid to get old, I have become close to alot of these guys and their families, but they and the management are expecting things from me that I can't give. You can't accomodate some and not the others. I think that I need a break from this kind of nursing and try something else that is less stressful than alzhemiers/dementia!I would like to continue my education in the field of nursing do you have any suggestions for a lowely LPN?
Posted by: Karen Echols | Feb 20, 2008 12:16:04 PM
I am really warmed by your post, but I haven't had quite the same experience. I am an RPN too in a long term care facility and I seriously feel like I am giving out medications for most of my shift. There hardly feels like enough time to have more than a brief, superficial conversation with anyone. I really wish that I was able to spend more time with these wonderful people. I'm really happy for you.
Posted by: Terry | Jul 21, 2005 5:02:09 PM
I related on a personal level to the Canadian R.N. who told of her love for Geriatrics.
I started my career as an R.N. 13 years ago in a break neck paced Oncology Unit at a large teaching hospital.
Six years later, I severely injured my knee on the job requiring five surgeries within two years.
I was lost... I knew no other type of nursing and had no idea what to pursue or if I could return to nursing at all.
When I started to look for work, I had been out of nursing for two years. I wasn't even sure if I could tolerate 8 hours on my feet!
I signed with a nursing agency and took some Adult home care positions. I wasn't challenged enough. I still had the "acute care" mentality. I thought if I wasn't in a hospital setting on the front lines, I couldn't possibly be making a difference.
Still searching, I reluctantly took agency work at the local County Nursing Home as a R.N. Supervisor on 11-7. It was through the next year and a half on night shift I realized LTC nursing required "Real Nursing".
So many times working in acute care I heard negative remarks and comments about LTC nurses implying they did not practice "real nursing".
I spent the next eightenn months, the only R.N. in a building of 344 residents learning just the opposite.
I was challenged every night. Sometimes it was a resident newly admitted having adjustment problems. I had the opportunity to listen to their losses and fears. Some nights it was managing pain. I would assess, communicate with the on-call physician and feel pretty good by dawn when they were resting comfortably. Other nights, I would trouble shoot subtle indicators of "something brewing".
The nurses I supervised knew the residents so well, I listened to their concerns about behavior changes, small changes in vital signs which I learned are "BIG" in the elderly. A patient in the hospital was not considered febrile at 98.9, but in the elderly, it could indicate a serious infection.
I grew to learn many more things in LTC nursing, all the regs and reportables, what DOH reviews were, etc. I initially focused alot of my energy into resident medical histories, recent problems, etc.
After 18 months, I changed my shift to 3-11. I now had the opportunity to meet and interact much more with the residents.
I have since learned their nuances, their strengths and weaknesses, their passions and fears. I have met and know many family members. I have listened to their praises and complaints. I know who sundowns, who stays up late and who goes to bed right after dinner. I know who goes into CHF quickly. I know who sneaks to the store and eats things they aren't supposed to. I know all the exit-seekers.
I know how many children the woman have had, and what the men did for a living.I know what keeps certain residents interested and interactive and what doesn't.
I have realized as I entered into the world of Geriatric Nursing, not only were my acute care skills challenged, but I had the priveledge of learning so much from the residents. Their lives are so diverse and interesting to learn about...who they are, where they have been, what they have done. Teachers, musicians, nurses, factory workers,engineers, electricians...all walks of life.
I now know my acute care experience gave me a good foundation for LTC nursing, which I love.
I feel so fortunate the residents have given me what I was looking for, a home within their home.
Posted by: A.D. | Jul 6, 2005 1:03:47 AM
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