Gerontological nurses use a specialized body of knowledge, skill and judgement to work alongside and with older people. Each older person is recognized as unique. In their professional practice, gerontological nurses collaborate with older persons, their care partners and their care teams to promote healthy ageing, optimize abilities, and provide care and support according to healthcare needs and individualized goals. Gerontological nurses recognize and identify common misconceptions of ageing and apply research and practice knowledge to influence healthy ageing, wellbeing and comfort care for individuals living with acute and chronic illnesses and/or end-of-life care.
The impact of COVID-19 magnified the challenges faced by older people living in our communities and by their care partners. Great efforts have been made to raise awareness of ageism and common misconceptions associated with ageing. These steps have brought ageing into the conversation of all Ontarians in the healthcare sector and beyond. The lessons learned from COVID-19 highlight the significant role of Gerontological nurses’ voices in influencing societal viewpoints and systems so that older people thrive throughout their lives.
A healthy culture of ageing respects individuality and promotes dignity while maximizing the independence of older people in all aspects of their life. Listening to the narratives of those in our communities that are ageing gives Gerontological nurses the opportunity to identify and build relationships and sustainable options to support people in ageing well. We recognize the value every person brings to their community. By supporting everyone in ageing well, we ensure the success, health and wellbeing of our communities. We are positioned to bring the voices of our colleagues, individuals ageing in our communities, and those who are consumers of health care by authentically listening to the stories, experiences and personal expressions forward to implement policy and health system changes.
Gerontological nurses work relationally to bring forward ideas and solutions to motivate and inspire those around them and across communities. The skills, knowledge and strengths of nurses contribute to identifying opportunities in their community to promote ageing well. Together with care partners and other health care professionals, we can educate others to provide information to help people make informed choices while navigating through support networks.
A culture of healthy ageing promotes individuals to make autonomous choices that respect the diversity and unique attributes of individuals. Understanding that common physiological changes are influenced by the social determinants of health including, but not limited to socioeconomic status, geographical location, education, lifestyle factors, culture, and gender. The ageing journey is a lifelong process, and nurses continue to play an important role in supporting individuals at the community, public and population levels of the health system.
Moving forward into the recovery stage of the pandemic, GNAO invites all nurses to reflect on their professional practice and the contributions they have made to help strengthen a healthy culture of the ageing experience. Whether through direct interactions at the point-of-care, regional, provincial or national levels of the health system, gerontological nurses make a difference in the lives of others. Pause to reflect on the moments when you seized the opportunity to mitigate misconceptions of ageing, promoted respect for dignity and independence, or engaged an action plan to encourage the involvement of older person(s) in your professional practice.
During the midst of uncertainty, change, devastation and death – gerontological nurses will continue to advocate, promote team problem-solving and decision-making to optimize care outcomes. All older people and their families deserve competent nursing care that promotes dignity and recognizes each person as individuals with their own beliefs, values, and preferences. In this light, you are the true leaders of healthcare.
Let your voices be heard!
About the Gerontological Nursing Association Ontario
Gerontological Nursing Association Ontario (GNAO) is a provincial organization representing nurses who strive to make a difference in the lives of older people and the nurses who care for them. The vision of GNAO states: all older people in the province of Ontario are cared for by nurses whose practice is evidence informed, relationship centered and meets the current Canadian Gerontological Nursing Competencies and Standards of Practice.
Established in 1974 by a group of volunteer nurses in Toronto, the group was incorporated as a non-profit and charitable association in 1979. The strong leadership and commitment of this Association has continued to promote high standards of specialized nursing care, provide continuing learning opportunities in gerontological nursing, and participate in advocacy activities and events to support healthy aging across the province.
Jen Calver, RPN, BAHSc (Hons), MHSc (Candidate), GPNC(C) Central East Chapter
Karen Bakker-Stephens, RPN, BEd (AE), GPNC(C) Hamilton Chapter
Madeline Sumpter, RPhT, BAHSc (Hons) Central East Chapter
Therese Lim, BScN (Hons), BA, RN, GNC(C) Northwest Chapter
Catherine Schoales, RN, BEd, MScN, Ph.D. (student) Northwest Chapter
Resource: CGNA (2020). Gerontological nursing standards of practice and competencies. Fourth edition. Canadian Gerontological Nursing Association. Available at CGNA.net