Caring for elders: the role of registered nurses in nursing homes


Maria Grazia Bedin, Professor, Haute Ecole de la santé la Source, University of Applied Sciences, Lausanne, Switzerland. E-mail: <>


Gerontological care in nursing homes receives little interest from students and newly qualified nurses alike. Yet, this population does have ever-more complex needs that call for a wide array of nursing competencies. This article highlights the essential contributions of registered nurses in the context of nursing homes and is part of a research study aimed at grasping the nature of caring for elders. The researchers used the methodology inspired from activity analysis using focus groups. Situations identified by the respondents as being disruptive have been looked at in cross-perspective. The results show that the work carried out by the registered nurses constitutes the linchpin of institutional functioning. Their contribution consists of coordinating all the activities that take place, while striving to make them relevant to the caretakers, residents, and their relatives. This key role comprises three fields of activities: organizational and innovative activities; autonomous, person-centered activities; and ethical tension management activities. By helping to meet the daily challenges pertaining to the care and monitoring of very old people and by dealing with situations that are often tragic, they carry out tasks that are stimulating on human, intellectual, and relational levels.