An AGNP manages an elderly patient’s care at home.
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How AGNPs Are Improving Geriatric Care


Post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing

Nurse practitioners play a critical role in health care. As a 2020 report in the International Nursing Review noted, nurse practitioners:

  • Are a vital part of improving access to health care
  • Can help to reduce the cost of health care
  • Receive high patient satisfaction ratings after providing health care

Nurse practitioners can serve a variety of patient populations and specialize in many types of health care. Among those specializations is adult gerontology. Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners (AGNPs) serve adult and geriatric patients, providing both acute care and primary care.

As the U.S. population continues to age, AGNPs have been breaking new ground in geriatric care. Individuals who are considering enrolling in an online Master of Science in Nursing program can benefit from learning more about AGNPs’ contributions to geriatric care.

What Is an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner?

AGNPs have two choices for certification in their field, and each of those certifications is essential in providing health care to adult and geriatric patients.

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners

As the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) explains, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AGACNPs) provide care to adult and geriatric patients who have acute, complex conditions such as heart failure, diabetes, or hypertension.

AGACNPs monitor their patients’ complex conditions and create comprehensive treatment plans. They concentrate on improving their patients’ health while preventing complications from arising due to their patients’ conditions.

AGACNPs work in acute care, intensive care, and trauma units. They also work in long-term care facilities and specialty clinics.

Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners

According to the AANP, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners (AGPCNPs) provide primary care to their adult and geriatric patients. AGPCNPs take medical histories, conduct exams, request and interpret tests, assess and diagnose patients, create care plans, and administer therapies. 

AGPCNPs work in private practices, long-term care facilities, and clinics. They also help to manage their patients’ transitions among different health care settings.

The Comprehensive Approach of Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners

Whether providing adult or geriatric care, AGNPs take a holistic, patient-centered approach. The AANP describes the following components of that approach:

  • Assessing patients’ health status, which can include performing exams or procedures, weighing risk factors, and reviewing how the social determinants of health affect their patients
  • Diagnosing patients, which involves processes of reasoning and analysis of health data to identify a patient’s condition
  • Creating comprehensive care plans, which can include ordering tests, prescribing interventions, and making referrals to other health care professionals
  • Implementing care plans, which involves both implementing interventions while working within patients’ abilities and identifying opportunities to teach patients about their health
  • Following up and evaluating patients, which centers on reviewing the effectiveness of care plans and amending those plans as necessary

AGNPs’ comprehensive approach to health care emphasizes factors such as patient education, health management, and disease prevention. In addition, AGNPs encourage patients and their families to be active participants in decisions about their health.

How Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners Are Improving Geriatric Care

AGNPs are making contributions toward improving the care that geriatric patients receive in multiple ways, as the following examples demonstrate.

Improvements in Long-Term Care

A study published in BMC Nursing in 2020 highlighted the benefits of bringing nurse practitioners into long-term care settings as part of a new quality improvement initiative. The nurse practitioners had originally been trained in primary care but subsequently received additional training in areas such as dementia and long-term care. The initiative resulted in decreases in:

  • Residents’ need for medication
  • Resident falls
  • The use of restraints on residents
  • Transfers to emergency and acute care facilities

In 2021, an article in The Gerontologist highlighted improvements in residents’ palliative care consultations and advance care planning, reductions in residents’ pain, and improvements in residents’ quality of life when nursing homes hired nurse practitioners such as AGNPs to provide care.

Improvements in Outpatient Care

In 2021, the Commonwealth Fund reported on improvements in outpatient care that resulted from nurse practitioners’ participation in the Geriatric Resources for Assessment and Care of Elders (GRACE) model. Under this model, nurse practitioners serve on interdisciplinary teams to proactively manage the coordination of care for elderly individuals who live in their homes. The GRACE model has resulted in fewer patient visits to emergency departments and fewer patient admissions to hospitals. The patients also have noted positive changes in their quality of life.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has reported on the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), which is another example of an initiative in which interdisciplinary teams that include AGNPs provide care to elderly patients who are living at home. The teams create an individualized plan of care for each patient that encompasses all of the services the patient needs. PACE has enabled elderly patients to remain in their homes and has resulted in fewer hospital visits.

Improvements in Dementia Care

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, the number of individuals who have dementia doubles about every 20 years, which means dementia care will continue to be a significant component of care for geriatric patients.

A 2021 report in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry analyzed studies on primary care programs that included the participation of nurse practitioners who had expertise in dementia care. The studies showed that the nurse practitioners helped to improve the quality of care that dementia patients received and increased patients’ use of the health care services they needed.

The journal Geriatric Nursing reported in 2021 on a study of AGNPs who screened rural, older adults who were at risk of developing dementia. The study concluded that these screenings were effective and could be a solution to addressing the risk of cognitive decline in older patients in rural areas who face challenges in accessing care.

Finding a Rewarding Career as an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

The adult and geriatric care that AGNPs provide is vital to their patients, whether in primary or acute care settings. AGNPs have the opportunity to advance the level of health care their patients receive and improve the quality of their lives.

Individuals who are interested in the field can explore Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program to learn more about how the program can help them pursue their career goals. With Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner tracks, the program is a steppingstone on the path to a fulfilling career. Start working toward that career today.

 

 

Recommended Readings

Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Curriculum

Nurse Practitioner Scholarships: A Guide for MSN Students

Prescriptive Authority for Nurse Practitioners

 

Sources:

Leveraging Nurse Practitioner Capacities to Achieve Global Health for All: COVID-19 and Beyond, International Nursing Review

Are You Considering a Career as an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?, American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Are You Considering a Career as an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner?, American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Standards of Practice for Nurse Practitioners, American Association of Nurse Practitioners

A Mixed Methods Quality Improvement Study to Implement Nurse Practitioner Roles and Improve Care for Residents in Long-Term Care Facilities, BMC Nursing

Medical Care Delivery in U.S. Nursing Homes: Current and Future Practice, The Gerontologist

Living Independently with GRACE, The Commonwealth Fund

Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The PACE Interdisciplinary Team, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center

Dementia Statistics, Alzheimer’s Disease International

The Growing Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Workforce: A Solution for the Aging Population Living with Dementia, The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry

Detecting Dementia Among Older, Ethnically Diverse Residents of Rural Subsidized Housing, Geriatric Nursing

 

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