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7 Types of Nurses with Age-Specific Competencies

February 21, 2014
Hands resting on each other for comfort


Nurses bring comfort to patients of all ages

Patient care shouldn’t be viewed as a one-size-fits-all treatment practice. Patient needs are broad across ages and other demographics, and on-the-job nursing skill sets are diverse in most medical units. Overlapping patient care teams can put your patients’ safety at risk and sends the wrong message to your nursing staff. With an online nursing degree from King University, you will be more than equipped in your nursing education to provide care to a variety of age groups.

In its 2011 Hospital Accreditation Standards report, the Joint Commission national accrediting bodyäóîrequired hospitals to ensure all staff members, students or volunteers working directly with patients must be competent to provide patient care services to specific patient populations according to age. The generally accepted age ranges are as follows:

  • Newborn (0 to 1)
  • Toddler (1 to 3)
  • Preschool (3 to 5)
  • School age (6 to 12)
  • Adolescent (13 to 18)
  • Adult (19 to 65)
  • Elderly (over 65)

Each of these patient groups has their own unique needs and considerations for optimal patient care and treatment. Many hospitals and other medical care facilities even require staff to complete an age-specific competency assessment program to demonstrate their ability to work with varying patient groups. And, many more are seeking BSN-prepared nurses to fill the employment gap. King University’s online nursing degrees prepare you to care for various age groups and demographics for specialized, attentive care. The following is a comprehensive guide to caring for various age groups.


Newborns quickly develop during their first month of life. They are growing rapidly and require tremendous amounts of attention to meet their developmental needs. As a nurse, you are responsible for helping to meet a newborn’s health needs and you are also tasked with preparing new parents through effective communication and education. As the child develops during that first year, care plans must follow their growth patterns to keep their safety and health in check.


Toddlers start gaining a sense of independence when entering this developmental stage. You will witness a drastic change in height and weight during these years, and toddlers will begin to understand their own movements such as balance, climbing, running and jumping. They will also gain control of their bodily functions, including those of the bowel and bladder. Communication is key in providing healthcare to this age group, as they are still relatively unaware of right and wrong but are cognizant of directions. You must thoroughly explain treatment plans in a tone that is easily understood by this age group.


This development stage is marked by extreme activity and discovery, with the significant development of motor skills and personality. Children in this age group are exploring their world, including their physical and emotional state. They are more prone to accidents, as their motor skills try to keep pace with their imagination. You must be adept in communicating with young patients and recognizing age-appropriate treatment plans. Parental involvement in patient treatment is still key at this development stage, so you must be willing and able to communicate with both the patient and their guardians.

School age

This is a broad age group that will experience a tremendous amount of development, including an average weight gain of three to five pounds and a height increase of one to two inches every year. And, while they are shooting up the charts physically, they are also making leaps and bounds in their mental development by learning to read, write and do complicated calculations. It is within this age group that patients begin to fully understand their personal health and wellness, including hygiene, physicality and more. You should address a child’s needs on the full wellness spectrum.


Adolescence is a time of tremendous growth, including bodily changes, which can have both a physical and mental effect on this age group. Peer pressure is also at its height during this development stage, and this age group may encounter many challenges to their principles that could affect their health. Adolescent patients are fully aware of the cause and effect of their decisions on their health and wellness. You should openly communicate with these patients as well as their parents while also keeping a relative sense of privacy for the child.


This is a vital developmental age group that spans several decades. During this time, patients will experience many life changes that could affect their health and well-being both positively and negatively. Most body functions are at their prime during the early years in this developmental stage; however, after the age of 45, patients can expect to experience changes in their muscular strength, endurance and mobility as well as vision, hearing and joint activity. You must consider a patient’s lifestyle and age when devising a treatment plan, and most patients prefer open communication.

Older Adult

The end of life doesn’t have to mean the end of quality healthcare. This age group often places tremendous patient demand on nurses; however, understanding how to communicate and treat elderly patients can ease your job. Many body functions of the patient will continue to deteriorate, and many patients will require serious healthcare.

Understanding the development and communicative needs of your patients is essential to quality patient care. King University provides robust curriculum that delivers a better understanding of these unique patient groups and prepares you for a career serving these patient groups.