Gerontology is a growing field that offers a rewarding career path for those looking to make a positive impact on the lives of older adults. As the world’s population continues to age, and exposure to the need for adequate healthcare increases, the demand for adult-gerontology professionals continues to increase.
In this article, we will comprehensively explore what adult-gerontology is, what makes it a rewarding career path, the various career options available in the field, and how you can specialize in adult-gerontology as a career path.
What is Adult-Gerontology?
Adult-gerontology is a field of medicine that focuses on the healthcare needs of adults and older adults. It encompasses the care and treatment of adult patients and the research, prevention, and management of age-related conditions. Since simple health conditions that occur at any age can be treated by most nursing practitioners and doctors, adult-gerontology focuses on the prevention, treatment, and management of acute or chronic illnesses of adults and old adults.
Who is an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner?
An adult-gerontology nurse practitioner is fully referred to as an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP). The American Association of Nursing Practitioners (AANP) defines the adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner as one whose role is to assess, diagnose, and plan for the health needs of all adults, from young adults to seniors.
That said, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners are trained to administer healthcare to all adults. However, they may tend to focus more on older adults as it is often where their services are needed. The specialized training that adult-gerontology nursing practitioners receive makes them able to identify the unique needs of adults, what health conditions aging may make them prone to, and how aging might affect their response to treatment. They play a huge part in healthcare and work to ensure all adults stay strong and healthy to live fulfilled lives and carry out their respective roles.
What are the roles of Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners?
The specific roles of adult-gerontology nurse practitioners could vary depending on their work environment, their level of education, training, specialization, and experience, as well as the specific needs of the population being attended to. Nevertheless, some roles are widely known responsibilities of adult-gerontology nursing practitioners. These include:
- Diagnosing medical conditions
Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners are trained to diagnose a wide range of chronic and acute conditions in adults. These include but are not limited to respiratory disorders, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney failure.
The adult gerontologist may clerk the patient to identify signs and symptoms, perform physical examinations, order screening tests, and interpret diagnostic test results.
- Treating medical conditions
Upon diagnosis, the adult-gerontology nurse practitioner may administer treatment or recommend treatment conditions to the patient. The practitioner must administer age-appropriate pharmacological procedures. They may also recommend effective non-pharmacological therapies to patients and their family members.
Beyond prescribing medications, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners may also develop treatment plans for their patients and supervise to ensure patients stick to those procedures.
- Providing preventive care and health education
Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners also help patients maintain healthy lifestyles by enlightening them on preventive care procedures, promoting healthy behaviors, and offering adequate health education/counseling.
Adult gerontologists may communicate one-on-one with their patients or may be required to address large audiences of adults in specific settings. They may also provide caregiver education to other personnel in direct charge of managing the health of adults. Such caregivers include nurses in refugee homes, friends of families of older adults, and other attendants. Counseling and education could be on healthy aging, disease prevention, adult health management, and so on.
- Working with other healthcare providers to coordinate patient care
Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners work closely with other healthcare professionals to ensure their patients receive comprehensive care. Gerontologists can work with healthcare providers like physicians, physical therapists and rehabilitationists, social workers, and alternative care providers.
- Providing end-of-life support to patients and their families
With old age comes other perks like terminal diseases, degenerating body functions, and frequent diseases. These can be daunting for patients, their family members, and other caregivers. Adult gerontologists may help their patients and their families have a reasonably smooth life through their older years by providing end-of-life support through healthcare, counseling, and reassurance.
Other roles adult-gerontology nursing practitioners may perform include:
- Managing transitions between care settings
- Evaluating caregiver competence
- Obtaining medical histories of patients to identify trends and outliers
Where can you work if you specialize in Adult-Gerontology?
Adult-gerontology nurse specialists typically work in long-term care settings, either private or public-owned. However, you may also find them actively working in non-healthcare settings such as academic institutions and government offices. Here is a list of places adult gerontologists can work in:
- Primary care clinics
- Nursing homes for older adults or for managing chronic conditions
- Home healthcare agencies
- Private practice
- Educational and research institutions
- Government agencies
What career options are available for you in Adult-Gerontology?
There are several career options available for you if you specialize in adult-gerontology. Some of the most common have been outlined below:
- Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
This is one of the most popular career options you can specialize in if you are interested in adult-gerontology. Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners provide primary and specialty care to young and old adults. They can work in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings.
- Geriatric Nurse
Geriatric nurses tend to focus more on older adults by attending to their healthcare and end-of-life needs. They may work with older patients diagnosed with chronic conditions, terminal diseases, or age-related disabilities. They work closely with other healthcare professionals, particularly physicians and physical therapists, to coordinate care and achieve the best outcomes for their patients.
Like adult-gerontology nursing practitioners, they can also work in various healthcare settings.
- Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
Gerontological nurse practitioners tend to focus on the unique needs and challenges of older populations as they administer primary and specialty care. They identify how aging can impact the health state of older adults and help them manage their health as they age.
- Geriatric Physician
Geriatric physicians are medical doctors who specialize in the care of older adults. Other gerontology and geriatric nurses work with them as they diagnose and treat the health conditions of older adults. Nurse practitioners typically work with the recommendations of physicians for treating or managing their patients’ conditions.
- Gerontological Social Worker
As an adult gerontologist, you may specialize in the more social aspect of gerontology. In this case, you will be responsible for providing social, psychological, and emotional support to older adults, their families, and other caregivers. Social workers can help older adults and their families find the most fitting healthcare facility for their condition, help them navigate the healthcare system, and even access needed resources. Gerontological social workers may also offer counseling to older adults and their caregivers as they go through a psychologically draining phase.
Gerontological social workers may work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and community or government agencies that either house or manage older adults.
- Academician or Researcher
Adult gerontologists may also strictly specialize in the academic and research aspects of the field. Lecturers and teachers teach and train students to become adult gerontologists. Researchers study issues related to aging from health, social, and psychological perspectives. They may buttress the findings of previous researchers or work to make discoveries that will aid the provision of healthcare to older adults.
Researchers will not only conduct research and analyze data but may also be responsible for developing interventions based on their research findings.
Gerontological researchers may work in academic institutions, research institutions, government agencies, and other bodies that provide facilities and resources for research.
Why is specializing in Adult-Gerontology a rewarding career path?
Although adult-gerontology is often overlooked as a career path, it is truly rewarding and equally important as a field. Here, we have outlined why specializing in adult-gerontology makes a rewarding career path.
- It is a fulfilling and morally satisfying career path
Knowing that you are contributing your quota to making a difference in the world and working to meaningfully impact the lives of older adults can be a very fulfilling experience. This time around, your sense of fulfillment will not hinge on how many thank-yous you get from clients. Much more than compliments and appreciation, your mind naturally derives satisfaction from attending to adults and seniors, who often have one need or the other.
If you have yet to derive so much satisfaction from your previous or current career, shifting to a career in adult-gerontology might make a great start toward a highly fulfilling and morally satisfying life.
- It enables you to impact others directly
Like teaching or counseling, adult-gerontology is one career path where you can directly impact people’s lives. If you feel working a job where you only get to operate systems all day or balance account sheets is too abstract, a path like adult-gerontology might be a good fit for you. You would be able to make a direct impact on people’s lives as you help older adults manage their health and general well-being.
Not only would you interact with seniors to manage their health, but you would also work with their family members and care homes to counsel and provide insight on how best they can work to achieve the best health outcomes in their older associates.
- Wide range of job opportunities
A career in adult-gerontology offers a wide range of job opportunities. As already outlined, adult gerontologists can work in various settings, such as hospitals, family clinics, refugee camps, other long-term care facilities, research centers, and even with the government. That said, you are exposed to options even in gerontology, and you will be able to choose a career path that aligns with your goals.
If, for example, you have maintained your flare for healthcare, you can study to become an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner. On the other hand, if research is your thing, you can focus on the academics and research aspects of adult-gerontology. At the same time, there are the policymakers and administrators in gerontology who must ensure that healthy and favorable policies are put in place to improve the quality of life of older adults.
Not only does specializing in gerontology expose you to a wide range of job offers, but a degree in adult-gerontology is also a worthwhile deal because switching between jobs in the field is very easy. Unlike certain areas where even similar roles are highly classified and require focusing on distinct subject matters in school, a master’s degree in adult-gerontology is all you need to work in almost any aspect of the field.
- Diverse patient population
Adult-gerontology has a core focus on healthcare for older adults. As an adult-gerontology nurse, you get the opportunity to work with diverse patient populations, including seniors from all backgrounds, exposure, cultures, and unique health predispositions. This can create a rewarding and interesting career for you as you can learn from, work with, and address the needs of a wide range of people.
- Career advancement
As a nursing practitioner, specializing in a field like adult-gerontology is an effective way to scale up and advance in the field of healthcare. The same applies if you are a social worker, physiotherapist, psychologist, or counselor. Specializing opens up opportunities for advancement in your field as there is less competition. Therefore, you stand a better chance at rapidly advancing into leadership roles in general nursing or adult gerontology and scaling up into highly dignified teaching and research positions in the niche.
How can you specialize in Adult-Gerontology?
There are a couple of things you can do to get started with a career focus in adult-gerontology. These include pursuing educational programs, obtaining certifications, and networking with other professionals in the field.
There are no hard and fast guidelines for specializing in adult-gerontology. However, we consider taking these steps imperative for anyone who desires to specialize in adult-gerontology as a career path:
- Earn a degree in Adult-Gerontology
An undergraduate degree in gerontology might be all you need to get started as a gerontologist. If you want to take your education a step further, however, or if you already have a basic degree in another field, you can pursue a master’s or doctorate degree in adult-gerontology. Higher degrees will prepare you to be more specialized in a key area as an adult gerontologist and will expose you to all the skills and competencies you need while preparing you to lay hold on better job offers.
If you are considering a higher degree in adult-gerontology, you should be mindful of the nature of the program and its specialization. While you can earn a master’s degree in general gerontology, you will also find specialized gerontology degrees.
The online agacnp post-master’s program at Rockhurst University, for example, is designed for advanced practice nurse practitioners who desire to bolster their clinical competencies in adult healthcare. The online adult-gerontology post-master’s certificate program at the university makes a great option for nurses and other healthcare workers who want to focus on adult-gerontology. However, this program will not make a good fit if you do not have previous experience in healthcare or if healthcare is not your preferred line of focus in adult-gerontology.
You may find other specialized degrees like that offered by several schools. You will equally find opportunities to enroll for a general master’s degree in gerontology. If you are interested in becoming an adult-gerontology nurse or physician, then a bachelor’s degree in nursing, medicine, or a closely related medical field is required to pursue a master’s or doctorate degree that specializes in adult gerontology.
- Get required licenses or certifications
There are recognized professional bodies that regulate the activities of gerontologists. Such bodies may also offer licenses that may be mandatory before you can begin to work as a professional adult gerontologist. Nurse practitioner adult-gerontology careers, for example, are often regulated by nursing bodies and would require you to obtain a recognized nursing license and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
You may also choose to earn a certification such as those offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). While you will need a license to practice in your chosen field, certifications can offer you a boost, get promotions, and help you land better jobs.
Volunteer in relevant organizations
Volunteering provides huge leverage if you are interested in gerontology without a strong focus on nursing practice. With a bachelor’s or master’s degree in gerontology and adequate volunteer experience, you should be able to start out in careers like gerontology social work, or older people’s care.
A career in adult-gerontology can be incredibly rewarding for those passionate about helping older adults live meaningful lives, even in old age. From healthcare to social work to research, there are many distinct career paths you can take with an interest in adult-gerontology. There are also more than enough resources and specific educational programs available for those who want to be professionally trained in adult-gerontology. It does not matter whether you are just starting in your career, or you are considering making a change, adult-gerontology will always be a good fit for anyone.