In recent years, the need for an increased emphasis on gerontological nursing in schools of nursing has been verified. Florida has assumed a leadership role in this area of concern. The rules of the Florida State Board of Nursing that include administrative policies for establishing educational curricula and standards, criteria for evaluation, surveys and accreditation of schools of nursing include the following statements:*
The curriculum shall include theory and appropriate clinical experience in medical, surgical, obstetrical, pediatric, geriatric and psychiatric nursing, and shall provide experience in both acute and long-term care - The curriculum shall also include nursing process developmental tasks of all age groups. . . . Content shall include: clinical experiences with patients in all age groups and in the following areas of nursing practice-medical-surgical nursing of children, obstetrical nursing. (3) Geriatric nursing in a long-term care facility.
Will this required emphasis on gerontological nursing improve the quality of nursing care for older adults? Answers to this complex question are not readily apparent, but this step should he considered a positive move toward its solution.
It behooves us to exert great care in monitoring these requirements wherever they exist to insure that successive generations of nurses receive high quality instruction and experiences in gerontological nursing.
Dr. Robert N. Butler, Director of the National Institute on Aging, and Dr. Richard Besdine, a physician at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for Aged in Boston, Massachusetts, and a leading expert on hypothermia, were recently joined by representatives of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and the Department of Energy to discuss this potential danger to our elderly population.
Accidental hypothermia is a drop in deep body temperature that can be fatal if it is not detected and treated properly. Individuals 65 and over are especiallyvulnerable to accidental hypothermia, even in mildly environments of 60 degrees F (15.5 C) to 65 degrees (18.3 C). Potential victims include the very old, the very poor who cannot afford adequate heating, those elderly with diseases of the veins and arteries, elderly who are taking certain drugs, and those whose bodies do not respond to cold normally.
Accidental hypothernlia is not a new condition, but recognition of it is recent. Few health care practitioners are familiar with the condition or know how to treat the older victim. Low-reading thermometers that go below 94 degrees F (34 degrees C) are essential to a diagnosis of accidental hypothermia, yet they are not generally available in this country.
Given a correct diagnosis and proper treatment, many victims of accidental hypothermia will recover. If room temperatures are maintained at or above 65 degrees F, the majority of elderly will be protected from accidental hypothermia. However, those elderly who have impaired circulation or those taking certain drugs may require an even higher home temperature.