Sunday, July 19, 2009

Geriatric Care Becomes Focus at TTU

Retirees and aging Upper Cumberland natives who hope to experience healthy lives and find quality care in the area can take encouragement in a developing partnership between Tennessee Tech University’s School of Nursing and local extended care facilities.

Sheila Green, TTU’s School of Nursing director, has launched several efforts to bolster the education, technology and resources needed to educate nurses in geriatric care.

“We want to prepare tomorrow’s healthcare providers to meet whatever the population needs are,” said Green. “As the Upper Cumberland welcomes more and more retirees, we anticipate an impact on our healthcare system, and it is our mission to respond.”

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, aging of the U.S. population poses one of the greatest challenges for healthcare and professional nursing education programs. By 2030, the number of Americans age 65 and up will exceed more than 72 million, about 20 percent of the population. And collectively, older adults seek and receive the highest percentage of healthcare services.

To meet that challenge, Green began by sending assistant professors Tammy Howard and Judy Duvall to a national conference to look at curriculum and course offerings necessary to make sure nurses are competent in geriatric medicine.

“They came back with strong encouragement to bolster our program in terms of geriatric healthcare,” said Green. “So we began with a community-wide meeting with representatives from geriatric and extended care nursing facilities to build relationships and discuss how we could meet community needs.”

Jeremy Stoner, administrator of Cookeville’s National Healthcare Corp. facility, took the meeting as a call to action. He recognized that TTU’s nursing program would benefit from new equipment. Stoner, along with other local NHC administrators, recently presented a check for more than $12,700 to purchase a defibrillator and EKG machine for training.

“Tech produces great nurses, and we were happy to help,” said Stoner.
Green says that community responses to equipping TTU’s Nursing and Health Services Building have been wonderful, but that nothing is static in healthcare and updated equipment and technology is key to keeping education standards high.

“Our labs allow students to respond to scenarios, and our instructors alter situations that give our graduates a complete education in a career field that changes every moment,” said Green.

Green says the gift will help elevate TTU’s efforts to follow national recommendations on how to serve an aging community ¬— nursing educators must develop faculty expertise, adapt curriculum to include well elders, enhance curriculum with technology, create community and clinical partnerships, and create and support student interest in gerontology.