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University of Colorado College of Nursing

College of Nursing
 

Preparing Nurse Practitioners for the Tsunami of Older Adult Female Patients

Practitioner's focus changes in response to aging population


Over the 34 years that Jane Kass-Wolff, PhD has worked with women and sought to solve their health issues, she’s noticed something—her patient population is growing older. “In my clinical practice, I’m seeing more elderly women,” she says.

“With the changes in health care, we are going to be on the front line in seeing many of these patients,” asserts the CU College of Nursing assistant professor. “Just today in class, we heard that large health care organizations are hiring nurse practitioners because their patient case loads are increasing over the next few years due to the Affordable Care Act. They don’t have enough physicians who can see all of those patients.”

“It’s an ideal time to get a nurse practitioner degree with a special focus in geriatrics,” Dr. Kass-Wolff speculates. She is on the team heading up a federal grant to develop and promote the expanded Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner program, as well as the Family and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner options at CU.

“I want students to be excited about seeing older adults because they are fun,” Dr. Kass-Wolff says. “They have so many life experiences. At the same time, they can have many health problems. We need to do a better job taking care of them and keeping them healthy.”

To that end, Dr. Kass-Wolff has undertaken a research study of her patient population, to see whether or not they feel empowered in the care they receive. She asks patients after their clinic appointment to answer a few questions on an iPad. She hopes the data will indicate changes that can improve feelings of empowerment in one’s health care.

Nurse practitioners and advanced practice nurses are well positioned in the changing health care environment, Dr. Kass-Wolff observes.

“The key to giving good care is working as a collaborative team,” she says. The presence of many disciplines on the Anschutz Medical Campus enables students to combine expertise in specific areas (pharmacology, medicine, social work, etc.) to provide the best patient care.

With her lifelong commitment to women’s health issues, Dr. Kass-Wolff is particularly interested in bone density, calcium and prevention of osteoporosis. Her published research evaluates the levels of calcium, vitamin D, exercise with bone density in a young adult population to determine if peak bone mass has been reached in this population. The young adult population is where nurse practitioners can impact bone health.

In addition to Dr. Kass-Wolff’s teaching schedule, she is involved in a simulation lab that gives nursing students their initial clinical experiences. Instead of real patients, they encounter “standardized patients,” actors who present various diagnostic and treatment challenges. This enables students to manage challenging health problems in a safe environment.

Dr. Kass-Wolff is originally from Dallas, Texas and earned her PhD in nursing from the University of Texas at Austin. She likes quilting, knitting and cycling.