A Passion for Geriatric Care
While doing her fieldwork rotation with geriatric care, Danielle Gebben, COTA, had a strong feeling that she would be working in a long term care facility. Gebben says that during this rotation for her COTA degree she, “Fell in love with the population.”
She initially worked at a skilled nursing facility in South Haven, but when the opportunity opened up at a facility closer to home, she jumped at it. The location was convenient, but she also knew several of the therapists, and had heard good things about the facility. That was two and a half years ago, and she still loves her work as a COTA there.
Why a Passion for this Setting?
Gebben states that her love for the population stems from the fact that she gets to learn from a demographic that has a completely different perspective than hers. She also finds that the team approach to the care of individuals in skilled nursing is a big plus to skilled nursing setting. Although she gets to see some patients return home to their family, others end up living as long term residents. The good part about this is the relationship that forms with these people. However, saying goodbye to these patients when they pass away, after possibly years of being involved in their care, is certainly a challenge.
Unique Skilled Nursing Challenges
Gebbens mentions that there are a couple unique situations that can be challenging to manage as an COTA in skilled nursing. First there is the fact that the population needs a patient, gentle caregiver, which takes more time. “Because they are a little older, and a little weaker, you really have to take your time and go at a pace that is good for them.”
Another challenge is you have to work around the nursing schedule, helping the aides get the patient ready for the day, and work around the daily activities that patients rely on. “It’s different from outpatient where the patient comes to you.” Taking into account the patient’s multiple activities means so much to them that skipping them is not an option.
Gebben calls the skilled nursing setting, “Fast paced, to a degree.” She says there are the set requirements of carrying a specific patient load, but in her experience, the caseload has been “doable”.
Gebben finds that being able to be flexible is a huge part of being successful with the challenges that come with working in a SNF. Not only is there the element of having to coordinate with team member and resident schedules, there is the fact that many of the patients have behaviors that are a result of dementia or another illness. In addition, Gebben says that the therapists who are most successful in skilled nursing are friendly, enjoy being with people, open minded, and also good listeners.
In 3-5 years Gebbens hopes to still be working in SNF, with similar populations. She has enjoyed “seeing the flipside” of geriatric care when doing a clinical rotation with children with developmental disciplines, but says as long as she can, she will be working with the geriatric population.