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Gerontology: A Guide to Practice in Canada

May 17, 2021

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Nurses in Canada are an integral part of ensuring a continuous, well-informed, patient-centric, and safe healthcare system. Gerontology nursing specifies the role of a nurse in offering better assessment, development, implementation, and evaluation in an individualized and evidence-informed plan of healthcare for the elderly and family.  The population of Canada is aging and continues to include an ever-increasing number of older people. Hence, nursing in Gerontology will enable a professional to really fulfil the need of the hour.   In this blog, we will be presenting a guide to practice Gerontology nursing in Canada. If you’re interested in making a nursing career in Gerontology, keep reading to know more. 

Gerontology in Canadian Context: 

Nursing care for the elderly and their family members in the Canadian context takes into account some important socio-cultural considerations. These include a deep understanding of the cultural and linguistic needs of the older populations some of whom are also recent immigrants to Canada. While completing registered nursing programs in Canada, nurses understand that all cultures have different expectations for the relational care of older people.  The nursing colleges in Canada prepare, educate and train the students with skill-based training of intercultural competency, human rights, anti-racism, and conflict resolution. Nurses who have studied nursing courses in Canada enter the nursing practice after developing an intercultural competency for responding to the needs of indigenous older people and their families.  The newly graduated gerontology nurses in Canada must possess detailed knowledge, attitude, and skills to offer entry-level and culturally responsive care in collaboration with the older people and their families across the continuum of care and in multiple health care settings. 

Need for Gerontology Nursing in Canada: 

An important point to understand here is that the number of Canadians over the age of 60 or more is growing. Canadians live longer because of growth in enhanced nutrition, regional economies, advanced illness treatments, and successful interventions to manage morbid states. Many older people in Canada are healthy and active, which is why their healthcare needs revolve around illness prevention, health promotion, and support in the self-management of chronic illnesses.  On the other hand, there are also people who are experiencing multiple comorbidities. This requires extensive caregiving from nurses. Gerontological nursing care is pretty often linked with the geriatric patient units or long-term care. However, many nurses who have completed their nursing courses in Canada offer care to older people and their families across the continuum of care.  In many chronic healthcare centres, it includes multi morbidity management, palliative, and end-of-life care. In other places such as acute care settings, the elderly experience life-threatening problems which lead them to getting admitted. This requires close monitoring of the patient, delirium assessment and prevention, transition and discharge planning, navigating between healthcare settings, and end of life care.  As a Gerontology nurse who has completed nursing education in Canada, you must understand that the patient’s family needs information, education, support and inclusion in every possible context of health care delivery. There is a requirement of capacity building and promotion of resilience among the family of older people and all that is done by a gerontology nurse. 

Collaboration with Older People to Ensure Health and Well-Being: 

For practicing gerontology nursing in Canada, the nurses are supposed to collaborate with older people and their families for promoting health and well-being. They are further needed to foster resilience and adaptation to change, optimize healthcare function, and prevent illnesses and injuries. One has to recognize that healthcare of the elderly is affected by aging along with societal and personal views related to aging.  While the nurses who have opted for Gerontology specialization are in the process of completing registered nursing programs, they are encouraged to engage in therapeutic relationships with the elderly and their families while understanding more about the values and diversity of individual experiences, histories, and cultures. This is for the promotion of the health and well-being of the older person who is going through the aging process.  Nurses in Canada are taught to respond therapeutically to the age-related changes in the psychosocial context of an older person including isolation, loss, and social determinants of health. They are trained to help the elderly and their families access community resources that support optimal function and well-being. Furthermore, they collaborate with older-person, their families, and other healthcare professionals to implement a plan of care that manages age-related changes affecting their well-being. 

Managing Acute and Chronic Healthcare Conditions in Elderly: 

An important part of Gerontology nursing is to conduct a holistic and detailed assessment of the older person with the use of an evidence-based approach. To make a successful career in gerontology nursing in Canada, one needs to use critical thinking in monitoring complex interactions amongst acute and chronic conditions while responding to changes in health status and functioning of the elderly.  As a Gerontology nurse, you will be asked to collaborate with the older person who is suffering, his/her family, and the healthcare team in planning care to promote and/or maintain function in response to changes linked with acute illnesses. One has to support the older person and that person’s family as they transcend the levels of healthcare.  You will be expected to find the potential barriers in accessing care and implement a well-thought plan for minimizing these strategies. You will be like a professional resource who will offer informational, emotional, and instrumental support to the patients and their families. It will be your responsibility to find when the older person needs further care and initiating suitable referrals. 
Gerontology – Practice of Proficient, Respectful, and Culturally Sensitive Care: 
As you pursue the nursing study of Gerontology in Canada, you will be made to understand that death is a process of life and you will also be made to discuss advance care directives with the elderly. You will be educated and trained to support the older person in finding goals of care while advocating for fostering a determined healthcare process.  When you transcend to actually practice this at the different healthcare centres in Canada, you will be expected to take decisions related to offering treatments, advanced care directives, offer end of life care, and medical assistance in dying. You will be able to assess and respond suitably to the signs and symptoms of approaching death in the older person.  Other than this, you will also be able to assess the needs of older people and their families while engaging the healthcare team in a Palliative approach when indicated. This will enable you to offer physical, emotional, and spiritual care to the elderly during the dying trajectory and final moments of life.  Being a Gerontology nurse, you will offer comfort and support to the older person who is on the death bed. You will be trained to do this by offering care that is consistent with their wishes, and culture. It will include providing assistance and emotional support to the family members who are grieving during and following the death of a person. Finally and importantly, this also includes the maturity to recognize the need to engage in self-care following the death of an older person who was in your care. 
Conclusion: 
If you are an internationally educated nurse who is interested in Geriatrics then pursuing a registered nursing program in Canada will enable you to work with adults, promote wellness and enable good health. After the completion of this nursing program, you will be able to have specialized knowledge and training of effectively educating, assessing, and caring for the elderly. 

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