The John A. Hartford Foundation of New York City continues its ground-breaking work in support of geriatrics by establishing the John A. Hartford Foundation Institute for the Advancement of Geriatric Nursing Practice through a $5 million award to New York University.

The Institute — the first of its kind in the nation — will develop and implement a comprehensive national agenda for improved geriatric nursing practice. The work of the Institute will support improvement and innovation in the nursing component of health care of older Americans. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2030 the elderly’s ranks will grow to between 59 million and 78 million, or about one-fifth of the total U.S. population, up from only one-eighth in 1990.

The Institute builds on an important partnership between the Hartford Foundation and NYU in stimulating greater innovation in one of the most critical fields within American health care. The grant brings Hartford Foundation’s support for NYU initiatives in geriatric nursing to nearly $8 million over the last several years.

“The trustees, faculty and administration of New York University greatly welcome the opportunity to work in partnership with the John A. Hartford Foundation in undertaking this national effort to improve the nursing care of older people,” said NYU President L. Jay Oliva. Ann Marcus, Dean of the School of Education, added, “Through the talent and commitment of those at the Hartford Foundation and the faculty in our Division of Nursing, this new Institute will have a significant national impact on geriatric health care policy and practice.”

“Our trustees have long recognized the vital role of nurses in improving the care and quality of life of their elderly patients. We welcome this opportunity to acknowledge the unique contributions of nurses as we approach the next century,” said James D. Farley, chairman of the Foundation’s board. “We are delighted that we were able to recruit the talent in our home city to spearhead this vital national effort.”

The Hartford Institute, which will be directed by Mathy Mezey, Independence Foundation Professor of Nursing Education in the Division of Nursing of NYU’s School of Education, will bring national attention about the care and treatment of older patients to multiple audiences including nurses, physicians, consumers, insurers and others. Additional guidance will be provided by a National Advisory Committee.

The Institute will highlight the growing importance of nurses as the primary providers of day-to-day care for elderly patients in homes, hospitals and nursing homes and emphasize the role of nurses as leaders in restructuring geriatric health care through practice, research, and policy. It also will serve as a national repository for information about geriatric nursing care.

“The importance of nurses as a critical component of our health care delivery system cannot be overstated,” said Professor Mezey. “Nurses are especially important to the ongoing care of the elderly because they assure the safety and quality of personal care. Nurses monitor compliance in taking medications, teach patients and family members to provide ongoing care, identify early signs of complications of an illness, and coordinate and oversee the multitude of services and providers that very frail elderly patients require.”

This Institute will provide leadership for geriatric nursing training and will focus national attention on the innovative practice roles for nurses in the areas of research and health care policy. The Institute is expected to focus on five areas: clinical and demonstration research projects to enhance and humanize care; faculty development to expand training and research capacity in nursing schools; curriculum development in undergraduate and graduate programs to assure that all nurses working with older adults have basic knowledge of geriatric nursing; leadership development in clinical nursing and health care management; and communication and dissemination of training and research information to speed the translation of state-of-the-art knowledge into clinical practice and to enhance the recognition of geriatric nursing among multiple publics. These areas will be further developed during the Institute’s planning year.

The Institute is being established at a time when revolutionary changes in American health care combined with the growth of an aging population are creating new challenges for health care providers. The number of very elderly people who are likely to be frail and highly dependent on increasingly overburdened health, family and social support services will increase dramatically.

Currently, the majority of practicing nurses have had little preparation in the delivery of state-of-the-art care to elderly patients, whether at the bedside in hospitals or in other diverse settings. The Institute’s training and research efforts will improve the nation’s ability to meet the challenges of providing high-quality health care for a growing population of elderly citizens and their families.

Diane McGivern, head of the Division of Nursing in the NYU School of Education, said that the new Institute is critical to the division’s national leadership role in geriatric nursing education, research and advocacy. “We are making important strides in nursing and care-giving in a critical area of health care,” she stated. “Our cutting-edge efforts will have long-term health, economic, and social implications for patients, families, professionals, and institutions across the country.”

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