The American population is aging rapidly. Residents aged 65 and older will outnumber minors by 2035, according to research from the U.S. Census Bureau published in 2018. Within another two-and-a-half decades, the median age is expected to reach 43, a significant increase over the current figure of 38. This demographic shift will have an immense effect on the health care industry.
Unfortunately, few hospitals, clinics and private practices are prepared to handle this growing influx of elderly patients due to an ever-worsening geriatrician shortage. The more than 14 million Americans who currently require geriatric care only have access to approximately 7,300 licensed geriatricians, analysts for the American Geriatrics Society found in 2017. This disparity continues to grow. The Health Resources and Services Administration predict the shortage will reach 27,000 by 2025.
These developments have forced health care leaders to search for out-of-the-box staffing solutions. Many are turning to nurse practitioners for help — and for good reason. These highly educated medical professionals possess the clinical knowledge and experience needed to effectively serve elderly patients. In fact, a significant number of these individuals already work with elderly patients, according to research from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners published in 2019. Of the 248,000 certified NPs working in the U.S., more than 54,000 specialize in treating patients 65 years of age and older.
Registered nurses looking to carve out new career opportunities should consider moving into such roles. However, a master’s degree is essentially a prerequisite in this field, as almost 98 percent of NPs attended graduate school, the AANP found. Bradley University offers a comprehensive online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program that prepares prospective advanced practice nurses for working with families, including older patients. How exactly does the online MSN-FNP program at Bradley prepare aspiring geriatric specialists?
A comprehensive curriculum
The 65-credit program features almost two dozen courses covering numerous topics. MSN-FNP students entering the program with Bachelor of Science in Nursing generally start with a number of core sessions addressing topics that are not only central to the wider FNP role but also advanced practice positions in geriatric departments. These courses include:
- Advanced Pathophysiology: Effective FNPs must have a thorough understanding of the human body and best practices for investigating abnormal functions. This course offers such insights, preparing students for the heightened diagnostic responsibilities that come with the FNP role. These skills are even more critical for advanced practice nurses working with the elderly, many of whom have conditions such as hypertension that can lead to serious illness if not detected in time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Statistical Procedures: Modern health care professionals wade through massive amounts of data during their day-to-day duties. Here, students learn statistical analysis best practices — essential knowledge for FNPs looking to make a wide-ranging impact. This kind of statistical knowledge is particularly helpful for FNPs who intend to step in for geriatricians and serve large numbers of the elderly, a task that might involve spearheading population health initiatives.
- Leadership in the Health Care Delivery System: Clinical specialists such as FNPs often build the foundation for large-scale improvement in health care. This course augments aspiring FNPs’ ability to create change by equipping them with the historical, high-level context they need to practice on a small scale but remain cognizant of the larger forces that shape the patient experience. Graduates who go on to serve older patient populations require this insight.
- Health Informatics: Health care professionals don’t work alone. Most, including FNPs, collaborate with colleagues across multiple institutions to facilitate seamless patient care pathways. Here, students dissect the informational engineering principles of health informatics that underly most of the cooperative workflows used in health care today. This subject is incredibly important for FNPs entering the field of geriatrics, where older patients can suffer from lack of coordination, WHO researchers found.
- Advanced Pharmacology: Most NPs write prescriptions, according to AANP data from 2019. This is an essential part of working as an advanced practice health care professional. In this class, which unfolds over two three-credit sessions, students learn how to effectively pinpoint conditions that require medical intervention, along with more detailed pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic and pharmacotherapeutic principles. Pharmacological awareness of this kind is essential in geriatric departments, where the average patient maintains between nine and 13 different prescriptions, MD Magazine reported.
In addition to these courses, students enrolled in the online MSN-FNP program at Bradley take classes addressing key topics such as Evidence-based Practice and Legal and Ethical Issues in Health Care. Together, the core courses give aspiring FNPs looking to build careers in the geriatrics specialty foundational knowledge that can help them succeed.
Hands-on clinical experience
Students are not confined to the classroom during their time at Bradley. MSN-FNP candidates take five separate Principles of FNP Practice courses, all of which are paired with corresponding preceptor-managed clinical practicums. The fifth and final of these courses addresses aging populations. During these experiences, students administer care to elderly patients, allowing them to apply the insight they learned in the classroom in the field and further sharpen their skills.
An ideal instructional offering
These compelling educational components make the online MSN-FNP program at Bradley University, which ranks among the top six Regional Universities Midwest, according to U.S. News & World Report (2019), the ideal landing spot for registered nurses intending to move into FNP roles and serve the growing population of elderly patients. At Bradley, aspiring advanced practice nurses can cultivate the knowledge and gain the experience they need to have an impact in geriatrics departments anywhere, all without stepping foot inside a lecture hall.
Contact Bradley University today to learn more about the online MSN-FNP program.