Many new nursing professionals automatically assume they’ll work in an acute setting. Can you blame them? Popular depictions of nurses in TV and movies are predominantly in hospitals (Grey’s Anatomy, E.R., Scrubs, etc.). People often forget there are other environments where nurses are needed, such as long-term care.
Working as a long-term care nurse can be incredibly rewarding. Let’s take a closer look at why this career option could be right for you.
As the country’s population ages, more people are turning to long-term care. This sector of the healthcare field meets the older population’s needs while also helping them retain as much independence as possible. Most long-term healthcare facilities offer a tiered system of care, from services to help the elderly stay at home to total assisted living at a specialized healthcare facility.
What is Long-Term Care?
Long-term care isn’t just one type of nursing care; rather, this nursing specialty provides a variety of services, most commonly to elderly patients, to help them stay healthy while retaining their independence. Long-term care may also be offered to people with chronic or ongoing medical conditions.
In some cases, a person’s need for long-term care develops suddenly. Others gradually need more help as they age. Regardless of the patient’s needs, long-term care nurses are there to help.
As a long-term care nurse, you’ll help patients complete activities of daily living, such as bathing, eating, and dressing. Most patients in long-term care aren’t there for acute or sudden illnesses—because of this, it’s unlikely that you’ll need constant support from other healthcare professionals, like physicians. Don’t worry, you will certainly work with physicians, just not on a minute-by-minute basis as some other nursing specialties do.
A long-term care nurse consistently completes parts of the patient’s predetermined treatment plan. An important aspect of this function is continuously monitoring the patient for any change in their health status. If such a change occurs, it will be your duty to report this to other members of the patient’s healthcare team. Keeping an eye out for such changes requires excellent assessment and observation skills.
Benefits of Working in Long-Term Care
Long-term care nurses stay in the specialty for its many benefits, such as:
- Independence: Working in long-term care requires a certain degree of autonomy not found in other specialties. Since physicians or other team members aren’t necessarily around all the time, nurses must be willing and able to think on their feet to solve problems and keep patients safe.
- Job security: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Baby Boomer generation (people born between 1946 and 1964) are the second largest segment of the country’s population, following Millennials. Also, older people are expected to outnumber people age 18 or younger by the year 2034, which will be the first time this happens in U.S. history. Many of these people will need professional nursing help as they age—talk about job security!
- Location, location: Unlike major medical centers, long-term care facilities can be found in rural, suburban, and city environments. As a long-term care nurse, you’ll probably be able to pick where you’d like to work. This can be very beneficial to your own quality of life.
- Relationships: Long-term care nurses have some of the closest relationships with their patients since they care for them over an extended period of time. You’ll really get to know your patients and their family members, sometimes over the course of months or years.
- Slower paced work: Unlike acute care, which can be fast paced and unpredictable, long-term care nurses usually don’t face medical emergencies. Emergencies may happen, but this specialty is generally much less stressful compared to other nursing specialties.
One additional bonus is the depth of knowledge that can come from working with an older population. Long-term care nurses have the opportunity to learn about their patients’ rich life history and honor a generation that is often overlooked in American society. In turn, that brings a feeling of love, respect, and purpose that many residents of nursing homes or assisted living facilities may lack. It can be incredibly rewarding to give back in this way.
Working as a long-term care nurse isn’t for everyone, but those that choose this specialty often stay. If you’re interested in a long-term care job, IntelyCare can help you find the nursing shifts you want at the facilities you choose.
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN began writing professionally in 2016 as a way to use her medical knowledge beyond the bedside. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and worked as a registered nurse in multiple specialties, including pharmaceuticals, operating room/surgery, endocrinology, and family practice. With over nine years of clinical practice experience, her unique insights into the healthcare industry help her craft compelling content that targets both healthcare consumers and clinicians.