What is Long-Term Care (LTC) in Healthcare?
When a patient requires specialized care for an extended period, whether for a few months or lifelong, it is called long-term care (LTC). Nurses specialized in long-term care are dedicated to helping patients who have been left without the ability to perform all the tasks of care for their health, whether it is administering medications, changing dressings, shifting positions, or helping with daily routines such as bathing, dressing, combing hair, going to the bathroom, etc. A nurse working in the LTC setting will need many skills and qualities to provide the best care.
A long-term care facility can be anything from a nursing home to a patient's home, adult foster homes, assisted living facilities, memory care residences, etc. Any patient who needs a nurse's long-term care can get it in one of these places. Generally, nurses working in these facilities will be treating, for example, geriatric patients, patients with chronic conditions that prevent the patient from taking care of their health, or an accident that would hinder the patient's ability to secure care and get better promptly.
There is a wide range of clinicians or healthcare professionals working in long-term care; depending on the patient's condition; there may be physiotherapists, nurses, physicians, speech therapists, psychologists, dieticians, etc. Those who interact most directly with patients are the registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and certified nursing assistants (CNAs). Generally, the aim is to improve the patient's quality of life, following a treatment that may vary according to the professional team's opinion and the disease's evolution. What is important to emphasize is that multidisciplinary care, that is, the whole team working together, is the key to ensuring that the patient's life can reach the highest possible quality during his stay in long-term care, even if the stay is permanent.
What are the Advantages of Working in Long-Term Care?
There is a demand for long-term care nurses due to two solid reasons: there are an increasing number of geriatric or elderly patients, compared to the younger age group in the United States in need of an LTC nurse; the other reason is that worldwide, nurses have declined due to the recent global pandemic, either due to illness of nurses, shortage of nurses - forcing many nurses to resign from an increasingly stressful job -, or the death of many nurses and patients. The work of nurses continues to increase, and being able to work in a long-term care facility is one of the most attractive options for many nurses, either because of the good salary they get in exchange for the care they provide or due to their passion of caring for the patients who need them the most in the long-term. Some advantages of working in LTC for RNs and CNAs are that they can create a solid connection with long-term care patients and their families, get better salaries and benefits overall, and socialize with patients.
It is also important to note that in LTC, there can be significant challenges and that RNs and CNAs must be sure that long-term care is the right thing for them. The biggest challenge they will face is the nursing shortage, which can lead to stress and fatigue. Often, they will have to care for a patient in a short amount of time when the patient needs extra time, which can cause them to feel frustrated with the results of their care. It is essential to prioritize, remain calm, and effectively use their time to ensure patient safety.
Training and Requirements to Work in Long-Term Care
The primary training nurses will need to work in long-term care is the certification they already have as nurses, in addition to having a certificate in basic life support. All specialty certifications to get better jobs as long-term care nurses are optional, but it is always recommended to have them as part of extra training. In addition, to get better salaries and find jobs quickly, they can work PRN (pro re nata), that is, with temporary shifts in different facilities and independently through the Nursa app, which helps to find jobs close to where nurses are located, or in the area, they want to look for.
Regardless of their path, long-term care is a noble specialization in nursing, and they can count on the support of many institutions to achieve their goals. In addition, they will be able to improve communication and nursing skills by learning to care for all types of patients in need of long-term care.