Born between 1946 and 1961, Australia’s baby boomer generation is aging. Now in their 60s and beyond, boomers are changing the demographics of elder-care throughout the country, and, according to the Australian government, “putting a greater strain on Australia’s hospitals, aged-care services and pensions.”

 

The United States is experiencing a similar expansion in the need for aged-care services due to its own baby boomer population bubble. The considerable rise in the need for geriatric services, coupled with a shortage of geriatricians, has put the spotlight on innovative solutions to providing quality senior care in light of a physician shortage.

 

One program offering a solution focuses on nurses as the agents of change. American nurses are stepping up and stepping in to improve positive outcomes throughout the continuum of care through NICHE (Nurses Improving Care for Health system Elders). NICHE is “the leading nurse driven program designed to help hospitals and healthcare organisations improve the care of older adults.” NICHE focuses on creating systemic improvement by changing the processes over which nurses have control with a vision for “all patients 65 and over to be given sensitive and exemplary care.” NICHE empowers nurses through extensive training and resource provision, to ensure evidence-based care at the bedside in a care environment focused on patients and their families.

 

There are over 575 hospitals and healthcare facilities with a NICHE designation. Concentrated in the United States, and with representation in three other countries, there are none yet here in Australia. Are there lessons to be learned from NICHE to further empower Australian nurses to respond to our aging population?