Hartford Institute/AACN award honors nursing schools for innovative gerontology education

November 14, 2000

2000 award recognizes four nursing programs as educational models of excellence

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 14, 2000 - Offering a curriculum that focuses on health as well as illness, plus emphasizes the development of the older adult, the Pennsylvania State University School of Nursing is the first-place winner of the 2000 Award for Exceptional Baccalaureate Curriculum in Gerontologic Nursing, presented by the John A. Hartford Foundation Institute for Geriatric Nursing at New York University (Hartford Institute) in collaboration with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

The awards, established by the Hartford Institute and presented in ceremonies October 22 at AACN's fall semiannual meeting in Washington, D.C., nationally recognize schools and programs of nursing that exhibit exceptional, substantive, and innovative baccalaureate curricula in gerontological nursing education.

"As older adults comprise a rapidly expanding segment of the U.S. population, geriatric care skills increasingly will become part of every nurse's repertoire," says AACN President Carolyn Williams, PhD, RN, FAAN. "These awards honor models of excellence that encourage the highest standards of gerontological nursing education, and AACN is extremely pleased to continue this collaborative effort with the Hartford Institute in coordinating and developing guidelines for this important initiative."

"We are delighted to be able to foster and showcase nursing schools in the forefront of meeting their responsibilities to adequately prepare students through outstanding geriatric curricula," says Mathy Mezey, EdD, RN, FAAN, professor of nursing education and director of the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing. "We are also delighted to partner with AACN in this effort."

As first-place winner, the Pennsylvania State University School of Nursing received an award of $1,000. A second-place award of $500 was presented to the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing. Honorable Mentions went to Sacred Heart University Nursing Programs and Physical Therapy Program in Fairfield, Connecticut and to the Department of Nursing at Winston-Salem State University School of Health Sciences in North Carolina.

Winning curricula were selected for their innovative approach, demonstrated relevance in clinical settings, and ease of replication by other nursing schools and programs. Reviewers sought small, innovative, and promising programs, as well as larger, well-established curricula that could be showcased as proven models of excellence.

Among other elements, such programs have separate, free-standing courses that focus on gerontology; use multiple clinical sites creatively; form partnerships with community resources; have faculty knowledgeable in and committed to geriatric nursing care; and integrate gerontological experiences into the overall curriculum.

Curricula of all winners will be summarized and distributed to nursing programs nationwide.

Winning Elements:

At Pennsylvania State University, gerontological nursing concepts are woven throughout the baccalaureate nursing curriculum. Health care of elderly adults is approached from a developmental, holistic approach, with the prominent focus on health as well as illness.

One required course and two electives focus specifically on the older adult. "Nursing Care of the Elderly," which is required, emphasizes normal aging processes, health promotion, disease prevention, and management of acute and chronic health problems, and includes 75 hours of clinical experience.

Baccalaureate students from nursing and other disciplines are encouraged to take advantage of the Gerontology Center housed in the college by participating in an intercollegiate undergraduate minor in gerontology, a "Death and Dying" course, or interdisciplinary research projects.

For example, nursing and exercise science students may collaborate to promote exercise and strength training in older adults. More than half of nursing students participate in weekly clinics operated by the school in an elderly housing unit in an underserved rural community of Pennsylvania.

The innovative aspect of the university's gerontologic curriculum involves thinking beyond illness and institutional care toward community-based care that promotes health and function in the elderly.

Also honored this year are:


University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Nursing - With four campuses across the state, the university's nursing curriculum provides an innovative example of how to implement gerontologic content in a variety of settings.

A required course, "Gerontological Nursing," is an integral part of students' theoretical and clinical learning during the fourth semester. Faculty on each campus participate in clinical experiences, and students have the opportunity to care for older adults in rehabilitation units, assisted living units, and nursing homes, among other care facilities for the elderly.

Collaboration by specialty faculty (gerontological, psychiatric mental health, and community health nursing) on one campus has led to the development of a Senior Nursing Clinic, which is staffed by students and faculty and provides students with personal experience in developing relationships with older adults as health care professionals.

Honorable Mentions

Sacred Heart University, Nursing Programs and Physical Therapy Program - Offering a unique curriculum that promotes interdisciplinary collaboration among nursing, physical therapy, and occupational therapy students, the university provides students with the opportunity to investigate and understand the health and wellness of older adults.

The baccalaureate curriculum includes an interdisciplinary minor in geriatric health and wellness, which consists of two required gerontology courses and four elective courses. The courses explore the physical, psychosocial, spiritual, and socio-cultural aspects of aging and the impact of ageism on health care.

An important component of the gerontologic courses is clinical experience with older adults in assisted living and extended care facilities and periodic meetings with Hispanic elders as part of a Spanish language course for health professionals.

Winston-Salem State University, School of Health Sciences, Department of Nursing - Since first initiating a gerontological nursing course in 1992 as a requirement for all baccalaureate nursing students, the university has continued to integrate concepts of health promotion and disease prevention as they relate to aging throughout the curriculum.

The required course emphasizes the role of the nurse in meeting the needs of elder adults. In spring 2000, faculty tried a unique approach to augment students' learning experiences; the gerontological nursing course was held in a low-income community-housing unit. Students had the opportunity to work side-by-side with elder residents and to debunk myths and negative perspectives about the aged and the aging process.
For information and an application for the 2001 awards competition, contact the Hartford Institute at 212-998-5568, or on the World Wide Web at http://www.nyu.edu/education/nursing/hartford.institute

Information is also available at AACN's Web site at http://www.aacn.nche.edu

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing is the national voice for university and four-year-college education programs in nursing -- the nation's largest health care profession.

Representing more than 500 member schools of nursing at public and private institutions nationwide, AACN's educational, research, governmental advocacy, data collection, publications, and other programs work to establish quality standards for bachelor's- and graduate-degree nursing education, assist deans and directors to implement those standards, influence the nursing profession to improve health care, and promote public support of baccalaureate and graduate nursing education, research, and practice.

The Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing is the only nurse-led institute in the country to set a national agenda to shape the quality of care for older Americans by promoting the highest level of competency in the nurses who deliver that care.

The Institute identifies and develops best practices in nursing care for older adults and practicing professional nurses as well as every nursing student. Its training initiatives cluster in education, practice, research, and policy and consumer education.

New York University Division of Nursing

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