A Voice for Older Adults: Promoting the Role of the Nurse in Assisted Living

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cynthia L. McDaniel, RN, MSN
School of Nursing, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR

Learning Objective 1: describe at least two issues facing nurses working in assisted living settings.

Learning Objective 2: identify at least two methods to facilitate empowerment in nurses working in assisted living settings.

Purpose: This project aimed to 1) examine the role of the nurse in Oregon’s assisted living (AL) communities and to 2) identify and describe the educational needs and resources needed for nurses working in AL communities. Assisted living (AL) is the fastest growing segment of community care for older adults. Oregon was the first state to develop the AL level of care, as a substitute for nursing home placement. AL communities usually have one nurse on the premises 32-40 hours a week for 45-75 residents. Residents in this setting have multiple chronic conditions, cognitive and functional impairments, pain, and polypharmacy issues. Nurses lack the educational preparation, work in isolation, and do not have support or resources needed to do the job.

 Methods: Two teams were established, one with AL nurses working in a central Oregon community and the other was made up of local, regional and state stakeholders vested in the outcomes and policy recommendations of the project. The teams met monthly to identify the challenges and resources for nurses working in this setting. The nurses explored their role as a leader both in their work setting and in the community.

Results: The nurses reviewed and completed the certification for this practice and participated in the creation of a virtual network for nurses working in AL in Oregon. As a result of this project a pilot descriptive study is being designed to better understand the challenges facing AL nurses in the state of Oregon regarding this unique practice. The outcomes of this project are facilitating AL nurses to embrace their leadership role, which ultimately impacts directly the care of older adults, resource allocation, and policy. Older adults need nurses to "find their voice" in this complex care environment and the development of leadership skills is critical to this process.