As you gain more experience in your travel nursing career, you will encounter many patients, all requiring different levels of attention. The more travel nurse contracts you accept, the more you can sharpen your skills to better serve these demographics. However, caring for elderly patients may be more challenging than travel nurses initially think.
Older patients could have multiple conditions, such as hearing loss, vision impairment, dementia, or Alzheimer’s. Their providers may also have to address sensitive topics, such as end-of-life care. It takes a special healthcare team to give this unique population what they both need and deserve. Travel nurses must be prepared to handle whatever comes their way. To ensure you’re providing older patients with the utmost care and safety, here are nine tips you should remember during your travel nurse assignment.
Travel Nurse Tips For Working With the Elderly
As a travel nurse, you may be low on energy after dealing with numerous patients at a time, but you must show older patients some extra love—this is a hard time for them. They are acutely aware that their health is not what it used to be. It always helps to be a little more gentle and try putting yourself in their shoes. Sincere empathy builds rapport, and a warm, welcoming demeanor can make this vulnerable time a lot easier for them.
The most effective communication involves your body language, verbatim, hand gestures, and tone. Cognitive impairments, or hearing loss, can make communication difficult, so patients may need you to speak clearly or use physical movements to understand your instructions. You should also consider alternative ways to communicate with patients that are non-native speakers too.
Also, elderly patients enjoy listening to others’ stories. Luckily, you have plenty to tell from your travel nursing adventures! Share your favorite stories from different travel nurse assignments, crack a joke or two, and let them feel at ease with you—treating them like a friend instead of strictly a patient increases positive outcomes for everyone.
3. Actively Listen
While it’s great to talk, it’s also imperative to listen as well. They also like to share their stories and enjoy it when they see you are invested. Positive body language, like affirmative nods, acknowledges your engagement with the conversation without interrupting. When seniors feel relaxed enough to talk to you, they’ll openly express any questions or concerns about their health, which is good to know as their caregiver.
4. Practice Patience
Older patients process information slowly and take a little longer to stand up, sit down, and do some things. You must let them do things at their own pace, which requires a lot of patience. (In a life that’s always moving fast, this should be a good change of pace for travel nurses!) Sometimes, you may need to repeat yourself several times before the patient fully understands the message. It is essential to talk clearly and a little louder so they can hear easily.
5. Get Active
Aerobics and muscle strengthening are the best exercises for seniors to prevent health problems and stay independent. However, setting aside time for a walk or engaging in their favorite hobbies is a good starting point to get them moving.
6. Be Respectful
Imagine if you could no longer be a travel nurse or never revisit your top travel nurse destinations—what a scary thought! The elderly community has seen and done a lot in their day, so they might struggle losing their independence. It’s hard adjusting to such a drastic change and depending on someone else. Because of that, it’s good to let them do things they still can by themselves. Be aware of where they might need support, but maintain respect when helping elderly patients accomplish tasks.
7. Ensure Accessibility
You must know how much your patients can handle when they appear for an appointment. They may experience confusion, disorientation, or even delusions and hallucinations. Swollen feet or bed riddance restricts their mobility, in which case they can’t go very far without hurting themselves. Providing competent and compassionate care requires that you assess the patient for these deficits before delivering care.
8. Arrange For Comfort
Spotting those deficits and providing the necessary adjustments for your patients’ comfort reduces distractions during treatment. Simple interventions like offering a blanket or sweater can relax them. Bright lights and loud noises can be upsetting to patients with sensory deficits, so altering the environment by decreasing background noise, eliminating distractions, and providing distance between yourself and the patient when you speak can work wonders.
9. Don’t Fake It
People notice when you force yourself to become someone you’re not, especially the senior patients. They’re not on the same level as younger patients and may be in their advanced stages, making them more susceptible to multiple treatments. They appreciate it when someone genuinely wants to help them, so they don’t feel like a burden. It helps build a connection and develop trust.
Older and long-term care patients need your gentle hand when it comes to healthcare. You may play a temporary role in their life as a travel nurse, but you have the chance to make a big impact and give them a positive experience.
Related Post: How to Manage Travel Nurse Long-Term Care