Infusing Geriatric
into Specialty Nursing

The Hartford Foundation has invested in nursing for nearly two decades, starting with funding to New York University in 1996 to establish the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, which has since this time become a valuable partner. The Institute has been a master collaborator, bringing private and public funders together to improve the field. Its effort to infuse geriatric competencies among the more than half a million specialty nurses in the United States is a notable case in point.

“Our mandate was to ensure that every nurse knew enough geriatrics to provide quality care,” recalls Mathy D. Mezey, EdD, RN, and professor emerita (Taking an Expansive View of Nursing), who was the Institute’s director in the late 1990s. “We looked around at the nurses in specialty organizations, who were really the crème de la crème in the field, and we wanted to make sure we had a vehicle to reach them.”

Initial grants from Hartford and the Avon Foundation in 1998 enabled the Institute to “go out on the road” to specialty association meetings with a large, attractively designed booth and information about the care of older adults. This exhibit generated interest, and the Institute looked to expand the effort.

affinityfunding The Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing’s Try This Series offers evidence-based assessment tools and resources for nurses in caring for their older patients.

Dr. Mezey and her team approached The Atlantic Philanthropies with an idea for a Specialty Nurses Association Initiative, bringing along Hartford and bringing in the American Nurses Association to ensure geriatrics content became part of qualifying examinations and to assist in the dissemination of specialty focused materials throughout the field.

“It has really been about raising awareness, educating and embedding aging into the normal processes of the specialty organizations,” says Laura A. Robbins, MS, MBA, a former senior program officer at Hartford, who then served as head of the U.S. Programme on Ageing for The Atlantic Philanthropies for eight years, as the project moved forward. “The work wasn’t easy,” she recalls, citing the difficulties inherent in working with dozens of different specialty organizations to convince them to add aging content to their exams.

The shared vision of ensuring that all nurses have the geriatrics knowledge to provide quality care to older adults helped the Initiative and its various partners stay the course, and the effort has continued to blossom. Today, 55 nurse specialty groups are engaged, running professional development events, educational seminars, presentations, and a host of activities focused on the care needs of older patients. serves as a Web home and clearinghouse for the project, featuring:

• Geriatric protocols, evidence-based for managing over 30 common geriatric syndromes and conditions;
• The Try This Assessment series with 30 nationally recommended instruments for use with older adults;
• Hospital competencies for older adults for use in nurse orientation and evaluation; and
• Opportunities to acquire continuing education contact hours.

“It’s been a wonderful partnership,” says Brian F. Hofland, PhD, who was the director of the ageing program at The Atlantic Philanthropies when it joined the initiative. “The Hartford Foundation gave very generously of their intellectual capital, their thought leadership, and their time, and I trust they received something in return as well.”

12 of 29