'Age-Friendly Care, PA' stepping up to assist in COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Meghan McGraw
February 05, 2021

LEWISTOWN, Pa. – Penn State Nurses with "Age-Friendly Care, PA" are demonstrating the team’s commitment to improving the health and well-being of older adults in Pennsylvania by aiding with local efforts in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

"Age-Friendly Care, PA," a collaboration between the College of Nursing and the Primary Health Network (PHN), is based in the College of Nursing in partnership with the Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence (CGNE). Partners include the College of Medicine, the PA Department of Aging, local Area Agencies on Aging, and the Alzheimer’s Association. PHN is the state’s largest Federally Qualified Health Center, which means PHN serves older adults living in rural and underserved communities in Pennsylvania.

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Nurse Jenny Knecht-Fredo administers the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to Donna M. Fick, also a nurse. Both are core members of the Penn State College of Nursing "Age-Friendly Care, PA" team.

IMAGE: Provided

Along with other community healthcare providers, PHN was classified as a pre-positioned vaccination site, and the organization has been working tirelessly to roll out vaccinations according to the state’s eligibility plan. "Age-Friendly Care, PA" Project Director Erica Husser said the Penn State team has been as supportive as possible since the pandemic began.

“We received a small amount of CARES Act funds and used it to provide iPads to PHN Community Health Workers (CHWs); they are identifying older adults in need of health care, but who are lacking access to technology and are unable to benefit from the mass transition to telehealth visits," said Husser. "Providing CHWs with iPads serves to connect rural older adults with annual wellness nurses who can address their needs. Coordinating that work has been challenging, so when a direct care path emerged for us to assist PHN our team members jumped at the chance to get involved.”  

Donna Fick, Jenny Knecht-Frido and Janice Whitaker joined PHN to assist with the administration of vaccines at PHN’s Lewistown Community Health Center. With care and collaboration at the heart of "Age-Friendly Care, PA," the team helped vaccinate 54 frontline workers and caregivers of individuals with disabilities in one day and will go back to further assist as the vaccine roll-out continues.

“Today I had the honor of administering the COVID vaccine to healthcare partners in the community and for the first time in 10 months, I felt a glimmer of hope that we are coming out the other side of this pandemic,” said Jenny Knecht-Fredo, Advanced-Care Practitioner for "Age-Friendly Care, PA."

As PHN continues to serve the vaccination needs of their patients and communities, they are expanding their workforce to include vaccination staff, and they need RNs able to work on contract for short shifts.

The "Age-Friendly Care, PA" team is driven by the project’s two-fold purpose. First, they seek to enhance the gerontological training of rural primary care healthcare professionals, students, families, caregivers, and patients to better meet the needs of Pennsylvania’s growing rural population. Second, the team is increasing the knowledge, expertise, and practice skills of care providers through implementation and promotion of the essential elements of Age-Friendly Health Systems, known as the "4Ms" (what Matters, Medications, Mentation [mind], and Mobility).

"Age-Friendly Care, PA" is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration through the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Project, and is part of a nationwide Age-Friendly Health Systems initiative launched by the John A. Hartford Institute and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, in partnership with the American Hospital Association and the Catholic Health Association of the United States.

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    Sandra Halbruner receives her COVID-19 vaccine.

    IMAGE: Penn State
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    Janice Whitaker shows off her COVID-19 vaccination record card.

    IMAGE: Penn State
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    Janice Whitaker receives her COVID-19 vaccine.

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated February 08, 2021