Gerontology nurses lead the way.
Subject: Nurses (Achievements and awards)
Author: Daltrey, Julie
Pub Date: 10/01/2011
Publication: Name: Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand Publisher: New Zealand Nurses' Organisation Audience: Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 New Zealand Nurses' Organisation ISSN: 1173-2032
Issue: Date: Oct, 2011 Source Volume: 17 Source Issue: 9
Product: Product Code: 8043100 Nurses NAICS Code: 621399 Offices of All Other Miscellaneous Health Practitioners
Geographic: Geographic Scope: New Zealand Geographic Code: 8NEWZ New Zealand
Accession Number: 271050300

The gerontotogy section was the inaugural winner of the three-minute "idol competition", an innovation herd at the NZNO cortege and section day in August. Cortege and section representatives were given three minutes in which to present an important issue or aspect of their college or section. To make the presentation more challenging, each group could only use one powerpoint slide. The competition was judged by nursing research section members Hemaima Hughes, Veronique Gibbons and Juliet Manning, NZNO president Nano Tunnicliff and kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku.

The gerontology section wanted to present the vibrancy and innovation nurses working in aged care experience and foster. Finding an image that would capture the essence of our work was challenging, as most images either patronise or ridicule older people. We believe older people are "cool" and we wanted an image that reflected that position. The image we put together was a compilation of coot people--modern day heroes who art died young and so did not have the privilege of growing old.

Growing old is not about being a burden, but about exploring the richness of a human rife. We are witnesses to a modern day miracle. It wasn't until the 1970s that average tile expectancy in New Zealand exceeded 70 years. Living only five years past retirement didn't really create a "social issue". By 2007, our average tile expectancy had reached 81 (72.5 for Maori) and is expected to reach 83 by 2025. By 2051, the 85-plus age group is predicted to quadruple from 57,000 to 322,000 people. (1)

For gerontology nurses, this presents an exciting opportunity to grow and develop our specialty. Traditional models of health care will not be adequate to serve this expanding population. Health and quality of life in the order age group, when people have accumulated a host of chronic conditions, is not about disease speciatities, or pure medical care or cure, but about addressing the unique physiological, psychological, developmental, economic, cultural, and spiritual needs related to ageing: in short it is nursing business. (2)

Already we have gerontology nurse practitioner care delivery models, academic chairs, clinical specialist roles and expanding postgraduate education. The gerontotogy section is working towards becoming a cortege. This means establishing a knowledge and skills framework, identifying standards of practice, having links with speciality education, and having a national voice by providing submissions on key government documents. As a committee, we want to be able to respond to national gerontology issues and be a voice for gerontology nurses outside NZNO. We want to work with other groups to advocate for order adults. Next year's gerontotogy section conference (August 6-7 in Rotorua) will reflect many of the themes of this move towards college status.

So what has all this got to do with the people on our presentation slide? Well, actor James Dean was known as "a rebel without a cause". Gerontology nurses have to understand and be able to influence the political context to improve care for our clients and to raise our profile among our peers. This includes achieving pay parity and safe staffing revels in aged care. Princess Diana, "Queen of Hearts", is remembered for fighting injustice and prejudice. What better cause than combating aged-care health inequality? Australian wild life expert Steve Irwin showed us the beauty of something traditionally reviled. Working in aged care is not "fashionable"--it can be messy, ugly and often unpredictable, but, just like Steve, the nurses who work in this area are endlessly enthusiastic about their specialty. Actress Marilyn Munroe was the idol of her generation and we art need a little glamour. English singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse was famously non-conformist. She represents art those old people who refuse to be regimented into particular care routines. American singer Kurt Cobain represents generation X, the future of gerontotogy nursing. This generation will have quite different expectations of care than the current "baby boomer" generation.

And why include John Lennon? Well imagine if gerontology nursing was recognised as the cutting edge speciality it is, with nurses reading the way, developing new roles, teams and services. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I know some day you will join us and gerontology will be number one.


(1) Statistics New Zealand. (2007) New Zealand's 65+ Population: A statistical volume. Retrieved 16/09/2011.

(2) American Nurses Association (2010) Gerontological Nursing: Scope and standards of practice Maryland, United States: Silver Spring.

Report by section committee member Julie Daltrey
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