Geriatric nursing: New attractive job in health-care industry

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AS operator of a seniors’ residence in the Philippines, I am facing an interesting problem: The scarcity of nurses with geriatric knowledge. We have more than 200,000 registered nurses in the country who are either unemployed or not working in their profession. I would have never imagined that the scarcity of qualified nurses will become a big challenge for the geriatric industry.

RainTree Care is not the only operator of aged-care facilities facing this dilemma. Nursing homes all over the country, caring for Filipinos and foreigners are in shortage of qualified nurses. And those nurses with geriatric knowledge usually leave the country in a time span of just a few months.

It is time to act now, as the need for geriatric services is rapidly growing. The Philippines has a population of more than 7 million senior citizens. Many are in need of medical attention. Dementia, stroke and long-term care services are just a few samples of geriatric services needed.

Clearly, a new trend can be seen: More and more assisted-living facilities and nursing homes are being established. Ten years ago, no nursing home could be found in the Philippines. Nowadays, we have about 400 beds in 20 private facilities in Subic, Laguna, Manila, Iloilo, Tagaytay and Cebu.

The above-mentioned facilities, as well as hospitals and home-care providers are in need of geriatric nurses. As geriatric knowledge is hardly taught in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, healthcare workers are very often overwhelmed when taking care of the elderly, paying attention solely to the medical issues and forgetting the holistic-care approach of elderly care. 

While the high quality of the nursing education in the Philippines is recognized by many countries, the geriatric-care content is limited to a few hours and gerontopsychiatric approaches are not existent, making Filipino nurses unfit for the work in aged-care facilities.

This, however, is exactly where the new need for nurses arises. Developed countries are put under pressure by aging societies and have a dramatic shortage of geriatric nurses. In Germany, my home country, more than 20,000 geriatric nurses are needed as of today. And this need is expected to grow rapidly. Recent statistics forecast Germany will be short of 100,000 geriatric nurses by 2030.

The Philippines has always educated more nurses it needed locally as millions of Filipinos are dreaming of moving abroad. Becoming a nurse was for decades the “exit ticket” out of the country.

Over the last years, the enrollment into nursing courses dropped significantly as many are not given the chance to work abroad and are being forced to work below minimum pay due to the massive competition. Universities are looking for alternatives and new programs to keep the enrollment high.

I strongly believe the BS in Nursing program needs to be rewritten. It has been too long since the responsible departments have ignored the need for geriatric nurses in the Philippines and abroad.

This would help us, the operators of aged-care facilities in the country, to solve the issue of finding competent geriatric nurses and support the establishment of geriatric departments in private and public hospitals all over the country to give proper holistic care to seniors.

I believe enrollment in universities will increase when students see a new perspective in becoming a geriatric nurse. This would also help developed countries, such as Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, to address their shortage of geriatric nurses.

Bilateral agreements between Germany, Japan and the Philippines have already been signed. Now is the time to act and start capacity building.

Hundreds of retired Filipino nurses with extensive geriatric knowledge returned over the last years from abroad. Their potential should be tapped and the knowledge multiplied to start the new sunrise industry of geriatric nursing.



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