Empathy in Geriatric Patient Care

Careers in geriatrics and gerontology are on the rise:

  • 4 of the top 6 occupations with most projected job growth through 2024 deal with geriatric care
  • Health occupations and social assistance industries are expected to have the fastest employment growth and add the most jobs through 2024
  • 5 million job openings will be available in the healthcare and social assistance sector from 2012 to 2022
  • Healthcare and social assistance industry careers are projected to increase 29 percent through 2022, compared to an average of 11 percent for all industries

Realityworks has developed the Geriatric Simulator and Geriatric Sensory Impairment Kit for instructors to help students to develop empathy for the geriatric population. Both include curriculum, addressing age-related sensory challenges and patient care skills.

Will today’s students be prepared to care for our growing elderly population? What does empathy in geriatric patient care look like?

The following infographic explores these ideas and more, and is a great resource for keeping the importance of empathy and sensitivity at the front of students’ minds in the classroom.

For another great resource on this topic, check out this recent webinar: How to Teach Geriatric Sensitivity to Students.

Teacher Tip: Boost Skill Development With Nursing Students

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

Ashe County High School Nursing Instructor Phyllis Ashley knows how important it is for her students to understand geriatric health concerns and be empathetic toward the elderly. The National Institute on Aging reports an unprecedented growth rate of the world’s older population: today, a mere 8.5 percent of people worldwide (617 million) are aged 65 and over. This percentage is projected to jump to nearly 17 percent of the world’s population by 2050 (1.6 billion). In North Carolina, where Ashley teaches, one in five citizens will be 65 or older by 2035.

As the elderly population grows, so will demand for workers skilled in geriatric health care. That’s why Ashley organizes a workshop for twice a year in which parents, family members and other students gather to see firsthand what her Advanced Health Science students are learning. At a recent workshop, her students had a unique experience to offer their visitors: the chance to “walk in the shoes” of an elderly adult.

The RealCare Geriatric Simulator by Realityworks is a wearable age simulation suit that uses custom eye glasses, weights, limb restraints and other pieces to simulate age-related physical challenges like visual impairment and stiff joints. Ashley’s students have been using the tool to learn what it’s like to be an elderly patient, develop geriatric sensitivity and learn how to provide better care for their future patients.

At the workshop, Ashley set up tables that featured the visual impairment glasses and gloves that come with the simulator. There, visitors could complete everyday tasks with the glasses and gloves on. She created another area where visitors could put the entire suit on and use the walker that accompanies the simulator. These experiences allowed visitors to get a taste of the concepts Ashley’s students are learning, while her students got hands-on experience demonstrating their skills.

 

“We had 32 people come through in two hours,” said Ashley. “I hope to do the workshop at least two times next school year, and we’re hoping to expand it.”

Diane Ross holds a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from Marshall University in Huntington, WV. She has been with Realityworks since 2013, and has been instrumental in assisting educators with implementing educational solutions that make a difference in students’ lives.

Fostering Geriatric Sensitivity through Age Simulation

By Kati Stacy

Miranda Kessler, RN-BSN, is the Health Occupations Instructor at Nicholas County Career and Technical Center in West Virginia where she teaches 11th and 12th grade students. The program includes health science courses with the goal of the students obtaining their West Virginia State Nursing Assistant Certification at the end of the two-year program.

“We are in a very poor county with approximately 1000 students in grades 10-12,” said Kessler. “We have seven feeder schools from three counties. Our area is very poor and jobs are incredibly limited. Some students will leave to go to college, but statistics show that the majority of our students won’t leave. It is so important that we reach these students and teach them a skill that can be used to take care of themselves and their families.”

When looking for a product to begin teaching geriatric sensitivity, Kessler chose the RealCare™ Geriatric Simulator by Realityworks because she felt the included components were a great value for the money. Designed for secondary and post-secondary education programs, the Geriatric Simulator allows users to experience a variety of age-related physical challenges.

“When I told my principal about the simulator after seeing literature on it at a conference and he saw how excited I was to use and implement it into my program, he bought in immediately and ordered it for me with no hesitation,” she said. “When the simulator came, he was so excited about it, he was actually the first person to try it! He was amazed by how it changed his normal routine activities and made everything feel much
more physically demanding.”

Kessler thought her students could really get good use out of the Geriatric Simulator and learn from the experience of wearing it.

“I wanted to be able to teach my students to be more understanding and empathetic with the aging process once we made it into our clinical rotation at the local nursing home,” reflected Kessler. “I wanted them to understand why the residents moved so slowly and I wanted them to learn to be patient and kind while working with them.”

Students in Kessler’s class are introduced to the Geriatric Simulator during their unit on growth and development and the aging process. During note taking time, they dress in the suit, which includes a weight vest (adjustable, one-size-fits-most), ankle weights, wrist weights. elbow restraints, knee restraints, gloves and a cervical collar. They also wear the glasses to impair their vision while note taking to see how it inhibits them.

“Initially, the reaction is, “This can’t be that bad,” or they laugh and giggle while gettingdressed in the simulator,” said Kessler. “After wearing the suit for the recommended 20-30 minutes though, their feelings generally start to change.”

Kessler said she sees the students becoming tired and their actions becoming slower and more purposeful throughout that time.

“Many of the students say that they didn’t realize it would be so fatiguing,” she said. “I’ve never had a student complain after wearing the simulator though; I’ve always only had positive comments.”

“After wearing the suit,” Kessler continued, “I try to have a one-on-one conversation with each student and discuss the experience. How did you feel before and after? How did your body respond? How did your breathing change? What did you find most challenging? What did you do in an attempt to compensate for your deficits?”

Kessler currently has one Geriatric Simulator that her classes have been using since September, but she said if her enrollment continues to grow she may look into purchasing another if funding becomes available. She is also looking into adding Realityworks’ new Geriatric Sensory Impairment Kit to her program through a grant she is writing. The kit features wearable components which provide users with age-related sensory changes to help with understanding common aging changes including: hearing impairment, geriatric arthritis and geriatric tremor.

“It is so important to get these kids to understand the pains and aches that our elderly generation feel every day, so that they can provide better care for our aging population,” reflected Kessler. “Even more than the physical aspect of aging, the mental and emotional status must be considered. These students can learn so much from the generation that we are now caring for – they can gain valuable life experience if they just slow down and listen and most importantly, respect the geriatric population.”