For years, we have been aware that the population of older adults (age 65 + years) is growing. This has prompted a variety of efforts to anticipate and address needs.
The CU College of Nursing has become proactive in meeting the growing need to serve this population by revamping the Adult, Family and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner master's degree options to include more geriatric content. A three-year $974,934 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) -- an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-- is helping to support the effort which includes a new website as a recruitment tool for prospective nursing students interested in caring for older adults.
Despite the growing need for nurses specializing in gerontology and media recruitment efforts, interest in becoming a geriatric nurse practitioner has not kept pace with the expanding older adult population. So, in 2009, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing recommended the closure of stand-alone geriatric nursing programs nationwide.
The following year, CU Denver received the HRSA grant to revise three nursing master's degree programs to include more geriatric content.
The geriatric curricular revision used research from focus groups of alumni to get at the heart of what they loved about the program, how prepared they felt after graduation to care for older adults, and what suggestions/feedback they had for improvement.
With that research and an extensive review of all of the master's course syllabi, the grant enabled the College of Nursing to revise its curriculum and redesign three of its master's degree programs.
In January 2011, the first of the largest generational cohort of "Baby Boomers" (born between 1946 and 1965) began reaching age 65. Nationally, there are 25 million older adults who comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population and will make up 20 percent by 2030. Older adults consume more health care services and resources than any other population segment.
One of the core objectives of the grant was to prepare advanced-practice nurses with the expertise to provide primary care to older adults. Over a three-year period, then, this would involve enrolling a minimum of 105 students in the enhanced nurse practitioner programs and graduating at least 55 of them.
In order to capture the interest of prospective students interested in geriatrics, the College of Nursing hired CITT (Center for Innovations in Training Technology) to build a site that showcases the revamped programs and the advantages of the Anschutz Medical Campus along with career information and faculty, student and alumni stories pertaining to geriatrics.
Launched last December, the new website can help connect with nurses who live in rural and underserved areas, in addition to nurses living locally who want to become nurse practitioners prepared to treat older adults at risk for or who currently are experiencing common geriatric health problems. Ultimately, the website's function is providing better access to information via email, which the coordinator of the Graduate Programs follows up with personally.
GERIATRIC COMPETENCY PROGRAM
With the grant funding, the Geriatric Competency Program formed a collaboration and partnership between CU Denver and the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.
The Anschutz Medical Campus CON programs are more hybrid in nature, with some online and some face-to-face courses, while UCCS is available entirely online.
The flexible nature of the program is designed to help ensure they can reach diverse students who live in rural areas, as 73 percent of Colorado's counties are classified as rural with high concentrations of elderly, low-income and minority residents.
According to the College of Nursing, CITT did a great job designing and building the site then explaining the whole process. Program Coordinator Rebecca Speer said, "We were very impressed with their services, professionalism and their ability to make deadlines and be adaptable."
College of Nursing: Rebecca.Speer@ucdenver.edu