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How do nurses tailor their care depending on a patient’s age?

Every state in the US has laws that guide health professionals in caring for patients of different age groups. These are mentioned in each region’s Nursing Practice Act and rules book. Generally, there are four key age groupings: neonatal, child, adult, and senior. The patients who make up these groups have health risks and will require special precautions when assessing, treating, and making choices.

Training for a diverse career

As part of their training, nurses are taught that their practice will vary greatly depending on the patient’s age. However, some aspects of care,,,,, such as compassion, effective communication,,,,, and kindness,,,,, are universal. Those hoping to train as a nurse with a degree in an unrelated subject could qualify within 15 months on the UIndy ABSN program. This flexible program by the University of Indianapolis combines online coursework with local clinical placements to fit in with students’ lifestyles and commitments.


The youngest patients

Neonates, infants, and toddlers comprise a distinct section of the hospital population. Nurses require specialist knowledge to deliver their care, as this age group is at high risk of problems relating to fluid loss and dehydration. Furthermore, pediatric nurses know that very young children can be nervous around strangers, so they often ask parents to stay close. Many infants have a limited immune response as their system has not yet matured, leaving them at risk of infection. Nurses will monitor for signs of illness but also pay attention to the risk of choking that is ever present in infants.

As toddlers and babies find it difficult to understand why they are being treated, there is no point in nurses attempting to explain every procedure to the patient. Instead, they will focus on other strategies. Play is a good way of teaching children what will happen and preparing them beforehand. Nurses might also help children manage their fears by supporting their relationship with their family and ensuring they can remain physically close—even during the night.

Furthermore, whereas older patients will have a set menu at the hospital, toddlers are often fussy. Therefore, nurses will care for their nutritional needs and rapid growth by providing snacks and respecting their food preferences. This fulfills a young child’s needs and helps trust between the patient and the nurse.

Growing children and teenagers

Children can be more active in their care as they reach school age. Nurses pave the way for a good relationship with their patients by offering explanations, giving choices, and involving the child. At this stage of life, accidents and the injuries that result from them are the highest health risks. Nurses can safeguard children in a hospital or clinic by explaining treatments simply and then asking the child to repeat the information. Younger children are often keen to learn more, so talking about procedures and self-care can be done through talking, repetition, and play.

Older adolescents have strong relationships with their peers, so when appropriate, nurses allow them to have friends close by during hospitalization. As they care for this age group, nurses consider that body image is often a key concern and will recognize that teens require privacy. Nurses will also be mindful of the impulsive behavior that can increase in adolescence and ensure their patient’s mental health needs are tended to so the risk of stress, self-harm, and depression are lessened.


In younger adults, there will be some remnants of adolescent behavior at times of stress, such as after an accident or during extreme pain. Nurses bear this in mind and care for the patient with compassion. Furthermore, when it comes to giving medication or radiology testing, a nurse will always check that a young woman is not pregnant before proceeding. Finally, at this stage of a patient’s life, the focus is disease prevention. Nurses work hard to educate young adults, so they stay in excellent health.

As they approach middle age, some adults start to feel the effects of aging or suffer from a chronic disease for the first time. Nurses need to be aware of how this affects people generally at the peak of their careers and enjoying a steady home life. Many patients in this group struggle to accept that their body is undergoing age-related changes. However, nurses show patience and respect to this group because their commitments are often vast. Many middle-aged people care for their children and parents and hold down a job. Health professionals will look for signs of hypertension, high cholesterol, and obesity, as these issues are often detected in this age group.

Senior adults

Post-65, there are significant changes in adults, both physiological and physical. These put them at increased risk of disease, as well as the type of psychological problems that relate to a loss of dignity. Many seniors have more than one chronic condition, which leaves them with a weak immune system, and their bodily functions may also deteriorate. While nurses care for a patient physically, they also strive to overcome communication problems that can arise when a patient has hearing or vision impairments. They speak, try to minimize background noise, and reinforce important information. Frequently, they provide patients with handouts to reread the details of a discussion in their own time.

Often, senior patients have conditions that need daily medication but do not require a hospital stay. Nurses play the role of educator, explaining to the patient how changes in diet and equipment, such as wearables, can help keep them well. Nurses also liaise with the patient’s family and other community resources to ensure they are supported in their homes.

Dorothy R. Ferry

Coffee trailblazer. Unapologetic student. Freelance communicator. Travel nerd. Music fan. Spoke at an international conference about donating magma for farmers. Had some great experience promoting saliva on the black market. Spent 2002-2009 lecturing about basketballs in Pensacola, FL. In 2009 I was writing about Magic 8-Balls in Miami, FL. Earned praised for my work importing crayon art in Hanford, CA. At the moment I'm managing sausage in West Palm Beach, FL.

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