Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence celebrates five-year anniversary

In 2006, Ann Kolanowski, a senior faculty member in Penn State’s School of Nursing, approached the school’s dean, Paula Milone-Nuzzo, about writing a grant to fund a national Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence.

Seven years later, the Hartford Center at Penn State is celebrating not only its five-year anniversary, but also a three-year renewal grant from The John A. Hartford Foundation, allowing it to continue educating geriatric nursing faculty and offering continuing education programs to practicing nurses in geographic areas of greatest need.

In retrospect, Kolanowski said, Penn State was an ideal place for the Hartford Foundation — a national leader in funding education and leadership programs in gerontology — to create a signature center of excellence.

“Pennsylvania has the second largest population of older adults in the country, and that population is growing fast,” said Kolanowski, Elouise Ross Eberly Professor of Nursing and director of the Hartford Center at Penn State, which is housed within the School of Nursing. In addition, the only other center of geriatric nursing excellence (CGNE) in the eastern United States was located in a large urban area — Philadelphia. “Pennsylvania is largely rural,” Kolanowski continued. “Nursing care is the key to better health for these older adults.”

“Pennsylvania is largely rural,” Kolanowski continued. “Nursing care is the key to better health for these older adults.”

This means nurses need the knowledge and skills to care for an older population — which, in turn, creates a need for geriatric nursing faculty who are prepared to teach them.

The School of Nursing was already attracting successful nurse scientists in areas such as end-of-life care, dementia, delirium and heart disease. Kolanowski has a long history of research in nondrug approaches to behavior management for nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia; her contributions to nursing science earned her the Gerontological Society of America’s Doris Schwartz Gerontological Nursing Research Award in 2012.

For these reasons, nursing leaders at other CGNEs strongly encouraged the School of Nursing to write for a Hartford grant. The payoff has been tremendous, both for Penn State and for the quality of geriatric nursing care in Pennsylvania.

The Hartford Center at Penn State opened its doors in 2007 with a five-year, $1 million grant and an ambitious mission: to improve the care of Pennsylvania’s older adult population by better educating nurses about their needs. They planned to accomplish this by improving the geriatric know-how of Pennsylvania nursing school faculty at all levels.

In the past five years, the center created an online post-master’s certificate program in Geriatric Nursing Education; developed online courses in gerontology assessment and intervention; and initiated free online and videoconferenced continuing education programs — all with a focus on the nursing challenges involved in caring for older adults and their caregivers.

Meanwhile, the center has helped support more than a dozen graduate-level Nursing students with a gerontology focus. These former students now work in advanced practice and research roles, leading change in clinical as well as academic settings.

Today, the Hartford Center draws on expertise from School of Nursing faculty members with varied research interests, including palliative care, prison nursing, sleep apnea and delirium. This year, the center’s co-director, Donna Fick, became the first School of Nursing faculty member to receive the title of Distinguished Professor at Penn State. Together, these faculty have helped move the School of Nursing’s national ranking in funded nursing research grants from 94th in 2004 to 17th in 2011.

In honor of its first five years of success, the Hartford Center invites the public to a celebration brunch on April 21 (during Penn State Blue-White Weekend) at The Nittany Lion Inn on the University Park campus. The guest speaker will be Amy Berman, senior program officer with the Hartford Foundation and a nationally recognized leader in the care of older adults. More information can be found at http://www.nursing.psu.edu/hartford/spring-brunch.

For more information on Penn State’s Hartford Center and its initiatives, contact Patricia Webb by email or at 814-863-5614.

Contacts: 

Beverly Molnar

Work Phone: 
814-863-0878

Marketing Communications Specialist, School of Nursing

Last Updated April 04, 2013