URI College of Nursing wins national award for geriatric curriculum

Coventry resident spearheads effort

KINGSTON, RI — December 13, 2004 — The University of Rhode Island College of Nursing was selected as the recipient of the 2004 Stand-Alone Baccalaureate Geriatric Nursing Course Award by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and John A. Hartford Foundation. URI was one of only five schools of nursing in the country to be honored with this award.

The College was recognized for its geriatric nursing course NUR 233: Foundations of Nursing Practice with Older Adults and its clinical section NUR: 234 Practicum in Foundations of Nursing with Older Adults. The College was presented with a plaque and a $250 check.

College of Nursing Professor and URI alumna Pat Burbank is the backbone of geriatric education in the College. Along with Nursing Dean Dayle Joseph, Burbank flew to Washington D.C. to accept the award at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing deans’ meeting on Oct. 24.

“It was really wonderful,” said Burbank of the award. “The faculty in the College of Nursing have worked so hard on this and I am very pleased that they are being recognized for the quality of their work.”

Burbank, who is currently the director of the Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist program and a faculty member of the Rhode Island Geriatric Education Center, realized that geriatric nursing needed a greater emphasis.

“The majority of patients that our students care for are older adults, but we needed to improve the amount of geriatric content in our curriculum,” the Coventry resident said.

Burbank said the College was honored because of three unique aspects of the course: its role in changing attitudes, ability to generate debate on key gerontology issues, and its focus on healthy seniors and those undergoing rehabilitation. “It is important that students get to see the image of older patients getting better and going home,” she said.

Beginning in the spring 2003 term, Burbank and Professor Tracey MacSwain began teaching the course, which incorporates traditional teaching methods with clinical rotations, where students assist patients in senior citizen centers and hospitals. At the beginning of the course, students are tested on their attitudes about seniors. For the spring 2003 term, students responded with 110 positive and 125 negative adjectives to describe their reactions to and about older patients. By the end of the course, students filled out a post-test, and responded with 211 positive and 88 negative adjectives. One student wrote, “I was afraid of older people before this clinical, but now I really enjoy them.”

Burbank presented the course at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Baccalaureate Conference in Florida last month where nursing faculty from around the country were “really excited” about implementing portions of the course into their curriculums.

As admissions to the URI College of Nursing have nearly doubled in the past year, more students have been registering for the course. Burbank has also been working with faculty members on integrating geriatric nursing into all facets of undergraduate courses including pediatrics and maternity.

Based in New York, the John A Hartford Foundation Institute of Geriatric Nursing’s mission is to “shape the quality of health care that elderly Americans receive by promoting the highest level of competency in the nurses who deliver that care.”