Long-term Care is Nursing, Too

While it's true that there may be nothing glamorous about caring for a floor full of patients with Alzheimer's disease, nurses who work there are making a huge difference.

After a while out of the clinical area of nursing, I’ve decided to go back. I am still keeping my freelance writing business going and keeping my favorite clients, but I miss the day-to-day contact that nursing brings.

However, I don’t want to work in an acute care hospital. With the nursing shortages and required over time, the stress levels there are frightening to me. I can make a living with my writing so I don’t need the stress and I don’t want to make myself sick over it. So, I’ve decided to go work in a rehabilitation/convalescent hospital again. I’ve done it before and it’s not stress-free, the work is different. And, importantly, the goal is the same as in acute care nursing: to help our patients become better than they were when they entered our doors.

So, if the goal is the same, why do we have such a divide between nurses who work in acute care and those who work in convalescence or rehab? Unfortunately, it’s frequently on the side of the acute care nurses who feel that those in rehab have a cushy job. While rehab or long-term care isn’t usually as run-off-your feet as acute care nursing, it can be very busy in so many different ways.

Nursing has a lot of in-fighting. There are shift wars (“our shift is busier than yours”), specialized unit versus general floor wars, office nursing versus hospital nursing — why do we do that to ourselves?

While it’s true that there may be nothing glamorous about caring for a floor full of patients with Alzheimer’s disease — nurses who work there are making a huge difference in the lives of, not only their patients, but of their loved ones who would otherwise have no options. Caring for a patient learning how to walk again after a horrific accident is not as instantly gratifying as helping a patient whose blood pressure is crashing and about to go into cardiac arrest, but there is that amazing long-term gratification of watching him walk out the door on his own after his stay.

Many long-term care places take in respite care patients. These are patients who require a lot of care but are living with family members who have taken on that role. But, these caregivers need a break and with the availability of respite care for a few weeks, they can go away or they can stay home and recharge. The nursing care available to them for the respite is invaluable in helping them continue to care for their loved ones.

As the population ages, there will be more and more call for this type of nursing. It’s part of our cycle of life. Perhaps it’s time for all of nursing to embrace it.