Fairfield University School of Nursing receives $10,000 grant to create a certificate program in geriatric nursing

Image: Meredith WallaceThe Daphne Seybolt Culpeper Memorial Foundation, Inc. has awarded the School of Nursing at Fairfield University $10,000 to develop a Geriatric Nursing Certificate Program to address the critical need for education in the care of older adults.

The certificate in gerontological nursing will require 30 contact hours of work and will qualify registered nurses with two years of experience to sit for the Gerontological Specialty Nursing Certification examination provided by the American Nurse Credentialing Center. The credential provided by the center is a nationally recognized benchmark for excellence in geriatric nursing care, said Meredith Wallace, Ph.D., R.N., and assistant professor of nursing at Fairfield University.

"Geriatrics is a fairly new discipline," said Dr. Wallace, who is coordinating the new certificate program. "Becoming credentialed in geriatrics will make nurses and their facilities better able to care for the growing number of older adults who will come to them for treatment."

The need for geriatric education is clearly evident. According to the federal government, Americans aged 65 and older will comprise more than 18 percent of the population in 2030, compared with only 12 percent in 1990. As healthcare has gotten more sophisticated, people with deadly illnesses are also able to live longer, Dr. Wallace said. That requires nurses to rise to the challenge of helping older patients manage chronic disease, she said.

There are many misconceptions about the care of older adults, Dr. Wallace said.

Older patients are often not treated as aggressively as younger patients, Dr. Wallace said. They are also often perceived as being difficult to work with and unappreciative of the healthcare they receive, Dr. Wallace said. "It's not more difficult to work with older people," Dr. Wallace said. "It really is rewarding."

The first step in developing the new program is to determine the needs of area nursing professionals, Dr. Wallace said. Fairfield University wants to design a program that will benefit faculty and graduates of the School of Nursing, as well as practicing nurses from partner hospitals, which include Bridgeport Hospital and Greenwich Hospital.

The School of Nursing plans to launch the certificate program in the fall of 2004 or spring of 2005. The first class will accommodate 20 people, Dr. Wallace said.

The proposed program would be an important tool in educating nurses for geriatric care, said Tara A. Cortes, Ph.D., R.N., senior vice president of Patient Care Operations at Bridgeport Hospital.

"Since there is a documented shortage of nurses with the knowledge and experience to care for older adults, a program such as the one you envision will play an integral role in reducing that shortage and improving the care of older adults," Cortes wrote in a letter of support for the program.

The Fairfield University School of Nursing has been a leader in efforts to promote education in geriatric nursing. The certificate program is the latest initiative in a series of steps the School is taking to fully integrate geriatric education into its program. In 2002, the School received a $90,000 grant from the John A. Hartford Foundation to develop its undergraduate gerontological nursing curriculum.

"This grant will make it possible to educate nurses in a critical area of need," noted Jeanne Novotny, Ph.D., FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing at Fairfield. "Dr. Wallace's extensive experience in geriatric nursing research makes her an excellent choice to lead this initiative. She is a tremendous asset to Fairfield University and its students and faculty."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on January 9, 2004

Vol. 36, No. 146

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