The Gerontological Society of America is a multidisciplinary organization whose focus is research and application of knowledge relative to aging. Public policy is of major interest to members.
In an organization comprised of many disciplines, activities should be centered around common goals and purposes. Each discipline ought to have input and commitment to these goals and purposes. One of the best ways to establish interdisciplinary research and practice is to encourage members to participate and communicate with each other while maintaining allegiance to the members' primary discipline. Patricia Cotanch, Duke University School of Nursing, in an editorial "Dual Membership in Professional Organizations", CNR Newsletter, September 1983 writes;
"We will do ourselves a grave disservice if we put energies into erecting and maintaining impermeable boundaries instead of enhancing and encouraging an interdisciplinary process. I believe the time is right for us as a profession to share our skills and expertise with the new generation of researchers and clinicians who function from a strong interdisciplinary framework."
Two goals of the society, fostering application of research to the field of practice, and advancing the utilization of research in the development of public policy, correspond to goals advanced in nursing. Nursing research is a necessary component of all multidisciplinary research done to improve the quality of life for the elderly Nursing research, although in its infancy, is making rapid growth.
Gerontological nursing research in such areas of abuse of the elderly and nursing care problems peculiar to the aged ill, as well as studies examining the attitudes of caregivers and others toward the elderly, has resulted in proposals funded for continued research and for programs to educate professionals wishing to specialize in the field of aging.
In response to the ANA's concern for more clinical nursing research, nurses have engaged in such studies and have contributed new knowledge to the solution of clinical problems. However, nurse researchers have not collected much data for social policy making. The time has come, I believe, for nurses to assume some responsibility in this sphere of public issues and debates. Policy-making requires input from all disciplines or fields concerned with the specific problem at hand. The future of nursing depends, to a great extent, on research done by nurses and the intense participation of nurses in policy making as it relates to gerontological nursing.
The predicted increase in numbers and proportion of elderly in the population requires continued research in the field of gerontology. Nursing must contribute to the data base and add new knowledge to the field of gerontology. Nurses also must actively engage in policy-making decisions. Image: The Journal of Nursing Scholarship. Summer 1983, contains two excellent policy articles. Although not necessarily aging oriented, they are examples of research for policy making.
Binder Nursing Economics, Aug. 1983) in "Toward a Policy Perspective for Nursing" states:
"Nurses need to develop policy perspectives based on an understanding of the issues and the value dilemmas that they face. Such perspectives would give direction to the conduct and use of research and analysis."
What topics/problems in gerontology need nursings' attention? Many areas, such as nursing care problems of the aged ill need continued nursing research. As an additional example of an area needing nursing research and policy input I suggest a social problem which will increase in magnitude - the frail elderly. In an editorial in THE JOURNAL OF GERONTOLOGICAL NURSING, August 1982, titled "The Need for a Holistic Approach to the Frail Elderly," I posed this question: "How can nursing improve the quality of life for these individuals and help sustain them in their homes?"
Nurses have much to contribute to the field of gerontology. We need to involve ourselves in interdisciplinary research and nursing research which will provide a data base for policy making. We must become involved in the policy-making process. We must place ourselves in decision-making positions and act as advocates for the aged population and for nursing.