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University of Colorado College of Nursing

College of Nursing

College of Nursing MS Options Address National Need

Nurse educators revise curriculum to prepare students to care for older adults

MS options

Older adults, those over age 65 years, are anticipated to grow from the current 13% of the total US population to 20% by 2030. Further, older adults consume more health care services and resources than any other population segment. There is already a drastic shortage of primary care providers with the knowledge and skills to adequately and appropriately care for the complex needs of this growing population.

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 exponentially-expanding older adult population. As such in fall 2009, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommended the closure of stand-alone geriatric nursing programs nationwide and revising curricula to prepare advanced practice nurses to meet all national competencies to care for older adults. 

The University of Colorado became proactive in responding to the nursing shortage and the closure of the geriatric nurse practitioner master’s degree option by revising the adult (ANP), family (FNP) and women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP) specialty options to include more geriatric content. In particular, the previous adult nurse practitioner (ANP) option was revamped to include a focus on a population segment that spans from young adults to the oldest old. Graduates of the new adult/gerontological nurse practitioner (AGNP) options will meet all national competencies to care for older adults, and successfully sit for the AGNP certification exam planned for 2013.

A three year federal grant from Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in Advanced Education in Nursing, awarded in 2010, funded the project. Over the grant period, faculty at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus and the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs collaborated to review, revise and augment existing curricula within the three options (ANP, FNP, WHNP) to enhance student’s knowledge and skills to care for older adults. Faculty at both campuses also used research from focus groups of alumni to assess how prepared the alumni felt after graduation to care for older adults and what suggestions/feedback they had to improve the master’s degree programs.

The grant also funded the creation of a new website: The website serves as a recruitment tool to reach prospective students interested in caring for the elderly and raises awareness about the growing need for nurse practitioners equipped to handle the unique health care challenges of older adults. It showcases the revised programs in the College of Nursing and the advantages of studying gerontological nursing at the Anschutz Medical Campus. Further, the website provides career information and stories about faculty, student and alumni who work in geriatrics.

Drs. Ernestine Kotthoff-Burrell and Jane Kass-Wolff are principal investigators of the grant. For information about these master’s options, contact Dr. Campbell, coordinator of graduate programs, at 303-724-8503.