In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare wrote the memorable lines for Juliet: “A rose by any other name smells just as sweet,” implying that Romeo still would be as wonderful if he did not have the surname of her family’s enemy.
Many assisted living communities seem to want to call their nurses by any other name. Nurses may be called “health and wellness directors,” “wellness managers,” “resident care coordinators,” “clinical specialists,” etc.
Rarely do nurses in assisted living have the title of nurse, director of nursing or director of nursing services. These titles are reserved for hospitals and skilled nursing facilities (and we can talk about that name some other time).
I currently have a confusing four-word title, none of which includes the word “nurse.” When I introduce myself to residents and families, I simply say “I’m a nurse.” Then they understand who I am and what I do.
The social model adopted years ago by assisted living communities has dictated that nurses and nursing services need to be hidden. With the increasing acuity in assisted living, however, nurses increasingly are important. Residents and families know this, but the assisted living industry has not kept up.
With better technology and the availability of home health aides, people who don’t need nurse oversight and assistance aren’t moving into assisted living. Uber Eats and other meal delivery companies can help with nutrition. Video communication via programs such as Facetime, Google Hangouts and Skype, as well as automatic dispensers, can be used to make sure Mom is taking her medications. “Granny cams” and other internet-streamed security cameras can monitor household activities.
So why move to an assisted living community that doesn’t emphasize nursing?
Families and residents understand that they are getting nurse oversight if they move to assisted living. A nurse is a real, trained healthcare professional who will assess their loved one, coordinate with physicians, recommend treatments and handle health crises. They know they need a nurse. And they don’t know what a wellness manager is or does.
The assisted living industry needs to accept a blended healthcare and social model for assisted living and embrace the role of nurses. Year after year, nurses are deemed the most trusted profession in the annual Gallup poll. We aren’t doing ourselves justice by hiding nursing behind obtuse titles in assisted living. A nurse by any other name is just confusing, and it conceals one of the greatest assets in attracting residents to a safe and caring place.