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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI awarded $750,000 grant to prepare advanced nurses for gerontological care

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

KINGSTON, R.I. -- August 1, 2005 -- The University of Rhode Island has been awarded a three-year, $750,000 federal grant to prepare nurse practitioners as gerentological specialists.

Rhode Island ranks sixth nationwide for the percentage of adults over 65 and fourth nationally for the percentage of individuals 80 and older, according to Associate Nursing Professor Denise Coppa, director of the URI Family Nurse Practitioner Program. Yet, she said there are only 10 gerontological nurse practitioners licensed in the state. Of 31 nursing masters’ degree programs in New England, only eight had such programs, until this new grant to URI.

Coppa and URI Nursing Professor Patricia Burbank, a national expert on gerontological nursing and director of the URI Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist Program, collaborated on the grant application and will oversee the new program funded by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s Health Resources Services Administration.

“The awarding of this grant has major implications for the state,” said Dayle Joseph, dean of URI’s College of Nursing. “Given health issues, which accompany the normal aging process, this grant ensures that there will be an increased number of nurse practitioners available to care for these patients. This builds upon the excellent program we already offer at the University of Rhode Island and it ensures that the state’s elderly population will have access to care they need and deserve.”

“The purpose of this project is to develop and implement a new gerontological nurse practitioner program at the College of Nursing to meet the growing need for health care of older adults in the state and region,” said Coppa, a North Kingstown resident.

“The program will improve access to quality health care services by increasing the number of highly qualified, culturally sensitive GNP’s who will work with older adults in ambulatory care clinics, acute care and extended care facilities,” Coppa said.

There are 52 students enrolled in the current family nurse practitioner program at URI, which was established in 1975. With the gerontological grant, the college will add 11 students in the first year of funding, 14 in the second and 17 in the third. Coppa is the director of both programs.

The grant is also designed to increase the number of underrepresented minority/disadvantaged students who will be recruited to the program through ongoing education at the college, community college, high school and middle school levels regarding educational and job opportunities in the field of gerontology.

“The new gerontological nurse practitioner program includes a focus on the key areas of interdisciplinary teamwork and cultural competence,” said Burbank, a resident of Coventry. “To do this, the program will be closely linked with the Rhode Island Geriatric Education Center, based at URI, and other area health professional schools. Another unique feature of the program is a minority mentoring program and education for Rhode Island middle and high school students.”

Burbank said a limited number of full scholarships are available to incoming gerontological nurse practitioner students through the American Association of Colleges of Nursing/Hartford Foundation Creating Careers in Gerontological Nursing grant warded to the URI College of Nursing earlier this year.

“We’ve had students for years who wanted a gerontology focus, and they have done some work with Professor Burbank, but our students still had to go through all of the components of the family program, including pediatrics,” Coppa said. “Now, they can concentrate on health care specific to older adults,” Coppa said.

“I feel great for the students and the seniors who are going to be the recipients of excellent care,” Coppa said.