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I personally have noted that as a nurse you run into people from tons of different cultural and socioeconomincal background.  And as a nurse caring for an adult population, I’ve noted that taking care of a 42 year-old patient is quite different than taking care of an 85 year-old patient and it’s important to be aware of their specific needs.  

Please enjoy this sponsored guest blog post, written by Tricia Hussung at Campbellsville University

Recent demographic shifts will have major implications for the U.S. healthcare system, both in terms of the delivery of patient care and the practice of nursing. According to experts at Kansas State University, improved public health and clinical care have led to an increase in the average life span, meaning that by the year 2020 more than 20 percent of the population will be age 65 or older. In fact, individuals over the age of 85 make up the fastest-growing group. This will lead to extended treatment of long-term chronic conditions, challenging the healthcare system’s ability to provide efficient care.

In addition, the diversity of the general population is a relevant topic on the minds of many nurses. Because multiculturalism affects the nature of illness and disease as well as morbidity and mortality, nurses must learn to adapt their practice to various cultural values and beliefs.

Such changes in the population are significant for nurses. Nursing practice, education and perspectives must adapt and respond to changing demographics because nurses play an increasingly important role in healthcare delivery.

Understanding the Aging Population

As the baby boomer generation ages, the number of older adults in the United States is expected to increase exponentially. Combine this with a longer average life span, and the healthcare system needs to adapt — quickly.

The National Institute of Health estimates that about 80 percent of people over the age of 65 have at least one chronic illness, such as heart disease, diabetes or arthritis. In addition, the number of older adults with multiple chronic illnesses is substantial. Chronic illnesses are one of the most central issues facing nurses in terms of the aging population because they impact quality of life for patients and garner considerable expenses.

Key considerations for elder care delivery include the following, according to Grady:

  • Identifying ways to improve healthcare and quality of life for older adults across care settings, from the nursing home to the community
  • Interpersonal interactions, either between older adults and family members or nursing staff, or among different levels of staff in a nursing home, which can influence older adults’ quality of life and health-related outcomes
  • Nurses as integral members and leaders of interdisciplinary healthcare teams to solve complex health problems and provide for older adults
  • Assessing multiple types of intervention, analytical parameters and environmental settings to fully understand the complexity of healthcare issues facing older adults and to produce the most positive health outcomes

In general, nurses will be required to provide care for more adults (and older adults) than ever before — patients who have complex healthcare needs. However, nurses are also in an ideal position to communicate with older adults about self-care strategies to prevent further illness while maintaining their independence, functioning, and mental and physical health.

Diversity and Multiculturalism

Another critical element involved in patient demographic shifts is diversity. In today’s healthcare system, the relationship between culture and health is central to delivering quality patient care.

The National Student Nurses’ Association encourages nurses to provide customized, culturally specific care that fits with a patient’s values, beliefs, traditions, practices and lifestyle. The association promotes diversity awareness, which is defined as “an active, ongoing conscious process in which we recognize similarities and differences within and between various cultural groups.” Diversity awareness also involves cultural assessment and cultural sharing among healthcare professionals with the overall aim of understanding the complex definition of diversity, as based on the writings of Marianne R. Jeffreys, Ed.D., RN.

While there are many factors to keep in mind, ignoring diversity may lead to unequal nursing care and negative patient outcomes. Under the Process of Cultural Competence in the Delivery of Healthcare Services Model, nurses are encouraged to use the following mnemonic, ASKED, when caring for any cultural group.

Have I ASKED Myself the Right Questions?

  • Awareness: Am I aware of my personal biases and prejudices toward cultural groups different from mine?
  • Skill: Do I have the skill to conduct a cultural assessment and perform a culturally based physical assessment in a sensitive manner?
  • Knowledge: Do I have knowledge of the patient’s worldview?
  • Encounters: How many face-to-face encounters have I had with patients from diverse cultural backgrounds?
  • Desire: What is my genuine desire to “want to be” culturally competent?

Looking Ahead

Providing high-quality nursing care to an aging, diverse population is no small task, but it is one of the most important responsibilities of nurses today. You can gain the advanced skills you need with the online RN to BSN degree from Campbellsville University. With an experienced faculty providing real-world knowledge and understanding of nursing, Campbellsville’s program is the ideal opportunity to advance your nursing career.

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