One of the fastest growing job opportunities seen in the nursing industry lately has been centered on working at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. As the elderly population continues to grow, so does the increasing demand for skilled nurses within these establishments and communities. And, with the elderly population being one of the hardest-hit areas of the pandemic, working as a nurse or medical professional in the nursing home industry has been, in some cases, more stressful than usual.
However, there are plenty of opportunities to make a positive impact in the elderly community and you might find it’s the right fit for you. Whether you are a recent nursing graduate who thinks working with the elderly is the path you want to pursue or you are an experienced nurse who wants a change of pace from a clinical setting, there are endless ways to make a difference in this industry.
In fact, working as a medical professional in a healthcare system such as a nursing home not only takes dedication and skill, it also requires compassion and understanding to maintain the safety and dignity of your patients.
While working as a nurse in a nursing home facility, you may have to take on many responsibilities. Not only are you taking care of elderly residents who need medical attention, you might also be tasked with making sure operations run smoothly, depending on your level of employment.
In a nursing home facility, you will find a Registered Nurse (RN), a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and on occasion, you might also find a Nurse Practitioner (NP). It might also be common to find a Gerontological Nurse, which is an RN who takes specialized graduate courses in geriatric care and obtains a certificate or degree in this area.
“Depending on the level of care rendered to its residents, the nursing home may employ all three nursing types or sometimes just CNA’s and one or two registered nurses,” writes AssistedLiving.org. “In any case, each type of nurse has their own job description and different level of responsibility.”
On a typical day, each level of nurse has their own job responsibilities and will have different tasks assigned to them. You might see:
Registered Nurse: An RN typically has more training and education than other nurses, and may hold supervisor roles and work under the direct supervision of the medical doctor. You will usually see their title as Head Nurse, and they are responsible for overseeing the LPN’s and CNA’s by designating the nursing assignments and are also responsible for making up the working schedules.
Not only do they maintain the facility’s staff, they are also in charge of initiating treatment plans and administering medicine. They also prepare IVs, draw blood, give injections and take vital signs. The RN is also usually responsible for interacting with the patient’s family by reporting any changes in the patients health or living situation, as they are usually the ones monitoring the health of the patients and making sure they receive the proper care.
Licensed Practical Nurse: Usually the LPN’s role in a nursing home is direct bedside care, where they carry out the routine care for their patients. They are also under the supervision of the Head RN and are responsible for the patient’s personal hygiene, as well as day-to-day care.
LPNs have a physically demanding job as they may be responsible for getting the patient out of bed or moving the patient into a more comfortable position. They are also responsible for taking the vital signs of the patient, such as blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, oxygen level and respiration, as well as giving enemas, may initiate medicine, apply bandages and dressings, insert catheters and monitor the IVs. LPNs might also feed the patients and record any changes in the patient’s health or vital signs.
Certified Nursing Assistant: The CNAs role in the nursing home is to assist the LPNs and are required to be state certified. A CNAs role is also very physically demanding as they do many of the same things that LPNs can do, with the exception of administering medicine or supplying IV medicines. Changing bed sheets, bathing patients, changing bedpans, feeding patients, walking them to help with exercise and helping them with personal hygiene are just a few of the things they do.
Nurse Practitioner: While nursing homes don’t always have a NP on staff, some do and they play an important role in assessing physical and neurological changes, as well as overseeing care for a large number of residents. NPs are able to prescribe and change medications and order treatments for patients. Typically, the scope of practice for an NP depends on the state law and varies around the country; in some cases, an NP must work under the license of a physician on staff.
Each role described above plays a major part in helping nursing home facilities be good, trusting places to keep loved ones safe and healthy. Most residents in these facilities cannot care for themselves and they are very dependent on the staff for receiving the care they need to stay healthy. So, maybe you are asking yourself, why take a job in such a demanding field?
Nursing homes provide a unique opportunity for nurses in many ways. Instead of seeing many different patients go in and out constantly, as you would see in a hospital setting, nursing home patients are typically around for a few years for you to get to know and have a sense of community with. Usually residents that are in nursing homes can no longer take care of themselves and maintain living at home. And, as a nursing-home nurse, you have the opportunity to provide medical care and safety that they could not find elsewhere.
As the pandemic continues on, many nurses find themselves in a battle during a unique time for nursing industry, but are protecting themselves and residents by wearing proper PPE, segregating sick patients, taking in recovered COVID-19 patients after being discharged from hospitals, taking staff’s daily temperature, and temporarily postponing visitors on campus for nursing home and hospice visits.
“According to the CDC, 8 out 10 deaths from COVID-19 in the US have been adults ages 65 and older,” writes Trusted Health. “For adults aged 65-84 who are positive for COVID-19, the hospitalization rate is 31-59%, the admission to intensive care rate is 11-31% and the death rate is 4-11%.” And, for adults who are 85 and older, hospitalization rates, admission to intensive care rates and deaths rates are much higher.
Nurses working in nursing home facilities are working around our most vulnerable and elderly populations within our communities. Not only do they take extra precautions, but they also take many selfless actions and provide compassionate care to make sure their patients and patients’ families can sleep well at night knowing their loved ones are being taken care of. So whether you are looking for a change in your career path or maybe looking to start one altogether, maybe you will consider working in a nursing home where you can make a difference in your own community.