Specialized nursing role shows Niagara Health ‘committed to providing’ care to older adults

Nursing for the bigger picture

Coaching is also part of Rubel’s portfolio. She teaches evidence-based skills to help staff and students work with older adults with dementia or cognitive impairments, such as gentle, persuasive approaches, which are person-centred care strategies that emphasize understanding and empathy.

“How do I help that nurse understand what’s happening and give them practical tips to help them through that interaction with a patient when they’re struggling?” Rubel explains.

Policy development and research keep Rubel busy, too. It’s “bigger picture” work that many hospitals don’t have anyone to tackle. Some organizations are downsizing clinical nurse specialist roles, Rubel says. “But to see Niagara Health investing in these roles, there’s evidence to support they can enhance practice.”

Niagara is home to one of the oldest populations in Canada and the number of older adults living in the region is expected to double in the next 20 years, making her role even more essential.

 “I’ve been here since 2010 with GAP and we really are seeing significant growth in all facets of geriatrics,” Rubel says. “It’s something positive and it’s exciting to be part of an organization that values care for older adults, and when me make concrete investments in that over time, it shows we’re committed to providing that care.”

Rubel has been committed to caring for older adults since doing a high school co-op placement in a retirement home where she worked with an activities director implementing programming for residents with dementia.

She always knew she wanted to be a nurse but that experience convinced her gerontological nursing was her calling.

Field of opportunities

In her first year of studies at McMaster University, she was the only one of 100 fresh-faced students to raise their hands when asked about going into the specialty. As a result, opportunities abounded with plenty of mentors wanting to help her along the way.

Rubel loved the complexity of caring for older adults, the teams-based approach, getting to know patients’ families, and even the autonomy the less-beaten nursing career path offered.

Her dedication to caring for older adults extends beyond her role at Niagara Health. She is president of the Canadian Gerontological Nursing Association and recently wrapped up a four-year term with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario board of directors. Both taught her about advocacy and the political side of nursing, and connected her with more mentors.

Rubel jokes she could talk about geriatrics all day.

“It’s cool to share with other people that these opportunities in nursing exist. I was lucky to be introduced to these opportunities early in my career and really embrace them,” she says. “Not all (nursing) specialties face the same challenges with recruitment that gerontological nursing does, but I do think gerontological nursing is in a really interesting time. We’re seeing more of a shift in the population toward older adults with an aging population.”

That means a field rife with prospects and a mentor in Rubel, who would be happy to show new nurses the joy that gerontological nursing could bring. 

“You know when you’re in the right place at the right time?” she asks. “This is where it’s at and it’s a great feeling.”

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