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Hartford institute scholars decry shortfall in geriatric expertise of health care professionals

The September/October 2002 issue of the journal Health Affairs features an article outlining an impending crisis in health care for older adults and the great need for expanded education in geriatrics for all health care professionals. The authors, Christine Tassone Kovner, RN, PhD, FAAN, Mathy Mezey, RN, EdD, FAAN, and Charlene Harrington, PhD, RN, FAAN, of The John A. Hartford Foundation Institute for Geriatric Nursing at New York University, make the case that two demographic trends are converging to create conditions for inadequate care for older adults: the aging of the baby-boom generation and the shortage of health care workers --particularly nursing. The authors assert that geriatrics needs to join pediatrics as a required element of training the next generation of health care professionals.

Adults over age 65 use about three times as many hospital days as those persons ages 55 to 64, and, in 1999 they made an average of 10.5 ambulatory care visits, compared with 6.4 visits for those under 65. Older adults are also more likely to have chronic conditions such as arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, and urinary incontinence than younger people. There is much evidence that nurses trained in geriatric syndromes are able to provide a higher quality of care to this population. Yet fewer than one percent of the 2.2 million RNs in the United States are certified in geriatrics. The article emphasizes that, "all programs in nursing and medicine...have required pediatric rotations, but a similar commitment to geriatrics has yet to emerge."

The lack of nurses trained in geriatrics is a reflection of the nursing education system, according to the article. In 1999, only 4 percent of the nation's 670 nursing programs leading to the bachelor's degree met all criteria for exemplary geriatrics education, such as a course in geriatrics, two or more placement sites in geriatrics, or at least one full-time faculty member trained in geriatrics
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Contact: Elaine Gould
elaine.gould@nyu.edu
212-998-5568
New York University
17-Oct-2002


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