‘The Perfect Storm’

Maricopa County, AZ, which includes the city of Phoenix, is home to large numbers of older adults attracted by the warm year-round climate. And thanks to an ongoing partnership between the Hartford Foundation and Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, they can look forward to improved geriatric nursing care for years to come.

Nursing faculty at the eight community colleges in the Maricopa County system now have access to an online, continuing education program—developed by the Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence (CGNE) at Arizona State University (ASU)—designed to enhance their knowledge and understanding about the care of older adults. In Arizona, many nurses with associate degrees earned from community colleges work in acute care settings.

The community college program complements ASU’s ongoing doctoral program focused on aging, which is preparing future nursing faculty who will teach not only in Arizona, but acrossthe nation. “The ultimate goal is to educate the next generation of nurses in the care ofolder adults,” says Nelma Shearer, PhD, RN, associate professor and director of the CGNE at Arizona State.

In partnership creation, you’ve got to have active engagement from all of the partners and we did have that. So it was really a recipe for success.” Carol A. Kratz, MPA
Program Officer (retired)
Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust

(Left, top) Nelma Shearer, PhD, Director, Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence, Arizona State University (Right) and colleagues.
(Left, middle) Arizona State University.
(Left, bottom) Adriana Perez, PhD, ANP, Assistant Professor ASU and co-director of the Arizona Hartford Center.
(Right, top) Carol A. Kratz, MPA, Program Officer (retired), Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.
(Right, bottom) Dr. Shearer and Hartford ED and Treasurer Corinne Rieder, EdD, at a recent meeting of the Arizona Hartford Center.

Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, the largest foundation in Arizona, is a local funder focused exclusively on Maricopa County, with aging and health care and medical research as priority areas. When it began competitive grantmaking in 2001, Carol A. Kratz, MPA, the program officer overseeing aging and health, drew on the knowedge and experience of Hartford staffers she met through Grantmakers in Aging (GIA) to learn more about the field.

By 2007, Ms. Kratz describes the development of “the perfect storm”: ASU was building a doctoral program focused on aging and health promotion; Piper Trust was actively looking to bring evidence-based programs to the Phoenix metro area; and the Hartford Foundation was looking to expand its CGNE program.

“Interest was there from ASU’s nursing school, and the grant opportunity was available through Hartford to help support the creation of something we knew was needed in our community,” says Ms. Kratz, who retired in January 2014.

That shared vision and commitment to training the next generation of nurses resulted in Hartford awarding ASU $1 million to become a CGNE, with Piper Trust—due in large part to the personal relationships forged with Hartford over the years and a familiarity with the quality of the Foundation’s grantees—providing the $500,000 local match.

Fact: In 2012, 68 percent of new registered nurses in Arizona had associate degrees, and 32 percent had bachelor’s degrees, according to the Arizona State Board of Nursing.

“We’re not experts in health. They are,” Ms. Kratz says. “Partnering with them and leveraging their grant by providing a $500,000 match made absolute sense.”

After that initial grant, Hartford and Piper Trust teamed up again to fund an online series on aging program for faculty of the community colleges, with Hartford awarding $300,000 and Piper Trust contributing a local match of $150,000. The first modules—a series on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease—went online in March 2014.

Hartford saw the potential in us. I think that’s the secret in life. When you see the potential in people and you encourage them, the sky’s the limit and the passion just comes out.” Nelma Shearer, PhD., RN
Associate Professor and Director
Arizona State University

“Working with Dr. Shearer and the dedicated nursing faculty at ASU and watching the program grow has been enormously rewarding,” says Rachael A. Watman, MSW, senior program officer at Hartford. “And Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust has shown the value of partnering with a local foundation that not only knows the community and its needs, but cares deeply about improving the lives of the people who live there.”

Dr. Shearer says the shared vision that binds the partners together has helped make the collaboration successful.

“Everybody had a similar mission, vision, and goals. It’s like we were all on the same page,
and we were all looking at it the same way,” Dr. Shearer says.

Fact: The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that about 27 percent of Arizona’s population will be 60 or older by the year 2030, up from just under 20 percent in 2012.

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