Purpose and Mission
As Australia’s ageing population continues to grow, the need for aged care nurses (also called geriatric nurses) will also grow. Approximately 80% of hospitalised patients today are elderly. Aged care nurses are well versed in the challenges faced by the elderly and are trained in simple wound management, catheter care, temperature, pulse and respiration (TPR), monitoring blood pressure, taking blood, managing medication, managing incontinence, making beds and showering.
Geriatric nurses are employed in hospitals, nursing homes and various aged care facilities. Elderly patients often have a multitude of complex medical issues. Aged care nurses must take a holistic approach to caring for patients and be well informed about every aspect of a patient’s condition. They must understand mental health, orthopaedics, respiratory care, cardiac care, urology, gastroenterology, pharmacology, palliative care, emergency medicine, physiotherapy, speech pathology and counselling. Geriatric nurses work closely with GPs and consult with other members of the healthcare team to determine the best treatment for their patients.
Most aged care / geriatric nurses report to a head nurse or lead doctor, although the chain of command can vary based on the type of nurse and facility
Experienced geriatric nurses will likely have notable supervisory responsibilities in terms of overseeing LVNs, orderlies and other less-trained members of the healthcare team.
The educational path for aged care nurses varies and can include diploma (one-year program) associate’s degrees, or bachelor’s degrees in nursing. A number of od specialist certifications in particular areas of aged care are also available.
All nurses must register with Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia in order to practice in Australia. Registration must be renewed through the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (NRAS) or via AHPRA.
Responsibilities of an Aged Care / Geriatric Nurse
Aged care nurses need strong written and verbal communication skills and must be able to work with people from various cultures and backgrounds. They have to write reports, keep accurate records for their patients, and have strong organisational, time management and critical thinking skills. Strong interpersonal skills are also important as they often care for the same elderly patients for years and build lasting relationships with patients and their extended families.
Geriatric nurses are passionate about and committed to caring for the elderly, acting as advocates for their patients within the medical community. Although it can be physically and emotionally stressful, working as an aged care nurse is fulfilling and rewarding.