As I listen to the tornado sirens blaring down the street, the thunder booming overhead and rain pattering against my roof, it seems appropriate that I have just learned that as of January 2011, the ANCC has discontinued the Gerontological Nurse Practitioner certification. To the shock of many nurse practitioners, despite the growing number of seniors and the media spotlight on baby boomer’s impending impact our medical system, NP’s can no longer specialize solely in geriatrics.
Although the gerontological specialty has officially ended, nurse practitioners may still attend programs with a dual focus, adult-gerontological nurse practitioner programs, for example. NP’s specializing as family nurse practitioners, adult nurse practitioners and acute care nurse practitioners are also prepared to treat this patient population. Despite the death of the gerontological nurse practitioner certification, sad news for many prospective NP’s hoping to work with the elderly, the future for nurse practitioners practicing in the geriatric realm is incredibly bright.
Last year, Medicare instituted readmission penalties for hospitals. In an effort to curb Medicare spending, these penalties punish hospitals financially for Medicare patients who are readmitted to the hospital within one month of discharge. Hundreds of hospitals face the maximun penalty, losing nearly one percent of their base Medicare reimbursements costing almost $300 million collectively. With Medicare’s promise to increase penalties in the coming years, hospitals are scrambling to comply with these new demands avoiding readmission penalties.
Enter the nurse practitioner. Existing home health companies, hospitals and new companies founded to address the readmission penalty nightmare are hiring nurse practitioners to care for Medicare patients at increasing rates. These companies hope that by implementing at-home or in-office follow-up with a nurse practitioner, recently admitted patients can avoid readmission saving hospitals millions of dollars.
Geriatric nurse practitioners (or NP’s from other specialties practicing in geriatrics) working for these organizations follow-up with recently admitted patients frequently assessing their health status. They address any problems that arise post-discharge treating them in their early stages preventing further hospitalization. These NP visits not only improve the health of Medicare patients but also increase compliance with their post-discharge care instructions and increase patient satisfaction. Gerontological nurse practitioners are uniquely positioned to function as a liaison between the hospital, patient and family serving as a vital resource for elderly individuals and their families.
Whether you are a family nurse practitioner, adult nurse practitioner, or gerontological nurse practitioner, your career options working with Medicare patients are rapidly expanding. Regardless of your personal opinions of new Medicare law, these regulations promise new and expanding career opportunities for NP’s.
Do you work as a nurse practitioner in geriatrics? Tell us about your career by commenting below!