It’s common knowledge that one of the main reasons why a nursing shortage is pending is because people are living longer and Baby Boomers are entering into their senior years. With an older population, it is obvious that more health care workers will be needed to care for these aging individuals. However as the need grows, the supply of geriatric nurses is not. Could vocational nursing students fill this void?
In The Columbian, Paris Achen highlights the desperate need for nurses interested in geriatric care. “Nursing assistants, along with other jobs serving seniors, are expected to grow faster than average for all occupations as 70 million baby boomers reach the age of 65 or older by 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
“’There is a strange paradox here, because demand for people with a background in gerontology is increasing, but one of the problems we’re experiencing is reluctance in terms of students who want to do coursework in gerontology,’ said Graham Rowles, president of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education and University of Kentucky professor of social and behavioral sciences.”
There are several factors to why gerontology is not getting the workers that it needs. Medicaid and Medicare are the major funding sources for these patients so the payments are not as high as for privately insured patients therefore bringing in less money. Secondly, lower pay, odd hours and the emotional toll on caregivers causes some workers to change jobs. Finally, there is a stigma about working with the elderly that many nurses shy away from.
My husband, who is an LVN, did home health care for many years. He got attached to several of his patients and loved visiting them in their retirement communities or chatting with them about their lives. The hardest part about caring for the elderly can be the difficult conditions they live in if they are unable to clean their homes, the lack of family support and the loneliness that many are struggling with.
I think that the main reason for why workers aren’t turning to gerontology is lack of real understanding of what it entails. We mainly envision a smelly nursing home with a depressing environment. However, there are many aspects to this specialty and different levels of care that are needed. After vocational nursing school research all of your opportunities, even the ones you’re not sure about. You may be surprised.
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