Ater a year of sabbatical, I have returned to South Carolina and my work as a gerontological nurse educator - only to face the same problems that I left. No miracles happened during that glorious year to promote the image of gerontological nursing and to recruit students into the field. I am again butting heads with the recruitment committee, the APG committee, and the administration to keep our graduate program in gerontological nursing viable, alive, and full of students.
I wonder if the nurse population thinks we work only as custodians in longterm care. Do they not realize that most of their patients in all settings are aging and are in need of specialized care? How can we, as gerontological nurse educators, promote our specialty so that people will bang at the door to get in?
I look at the graduates of our program and consider their positions to be exciting, interesting, and important. They are making a vast difference in our community in all of nursing because of the highly specialized background they received in gerontology. While one graduate works as a perfusion therapist and brings special consideration to older people undergoing heart surgery, another supervises and educates operating room nurses. Still another works as a case manager. As a result of her experience, education, and background, she also has realized the need to establish a transitional care unit to care for older patients who have nowhere to go; this unit serves as a model for others across the United States.
I could continue with tales of successes and I apologize to all those wonderful graduates I have not mentioned due to space. (I do know they continue to read this journal). Instead, it is time to consider the question, "Why don't students choose gerontological nursing for graduate study?" Interestingly, a need for gerontological nurses in advanced practice is there. With negotiation, the salary package can be established at a reasonable, if not lucrative, level. So, two basic reasons for not choosing gerontology as a specialty are eliminated.
This leads us to ask further questions: "Do we have a tarnished image?" "Does nursing home experience too early in the educational program lead to a dislike of the field?" and "Does the nursing public, in general, consider our specialty to be unchallenging, boring, and uninteresting?"
I have no answers, only questions. If our readers have answers, I would like to hear from them. As a group, we professional gerontological nurses need to polish our image and share our excitement with nursing as a whole. Only then can we meet the always growing need for gerontological nurses in advanced practice.