Patient Care

State Grant Supports the Education of Hospital Nurses in Care of Elderly

Jul. 9, 2012

Strong Memorial Hospital Nursing Practice and the University of Rochester School of Nursing have received a New York State Health Workforce Retraining Initiative grant that supports the training of 700 nurses at Strong Memorial Hospital and Highland Hospital in the best practices for caring for elderly patients.

The two-year, $136,000 grant will ensure that existing and new nursing staff members are prepared to respond to the unique and complex health care needs of hospitalized older adults and will help increase the number of direct care nurses certified in geriatric nursing.

“The average age of hospitalized patients here and across the country, is 65, and many of these patients also have chronic conditions and cognitive impairments that place them at higher risk for complications, prolonged hospital stays, functional decline, and poor outcomes,“ said Daniel Nowak, R.N., M.S., associate director of Nursing for Geriatrics at Strong Memorial Hospital. “Because elderly patients present unique diagnostic and therapeutic challenges, we need to make sure we are fully educated and highly responsive to the needs of this vulnerable and growing population within our hospitals.”

The training will be a joint effort by the School of Nursing and Nursing Practice at Strong Memorial and Highland, said Sally Norton, Ph.D., R.N., F.N.A.P., F.P.C.N., associate professor of Nursing who is the principal investigator on the grant. A nationally recognized expert on palliative care and end-of-life issues, Norton said that providing geriatrics training for acute care nurses is top priority here and across the country.

“Educating hospital nurses in the care of the hospitalized older adult wasn’t something that was done as recently as five or ten years ago,” she said. ”But we now have a growing body of research about geriatrics care that we simply didn’t have available to us before, demonstrating the most successful collaborative assessments, interventions and therapies for this population. Our goal is to make sure that the very best evidence we have is translated to the bedside by making the most current information available to nurses who are on the front lines of patient care.”

In the two years under the grant, about 50 nurses will participate in the Nurses Improving Care for Health System Elders (NICHE) intensive education and certification program. These nurses then will teach approximately 650 nurses at Strong Memorial and Highland.

The course includes case studies, online interactive programs and videos. Some of the curriculum was developed based on personal input from elderly patients and their families gathered through Strong’s and Highland’s Patient Advisory Councils.

Participating nurses will, in particular, enrich their understanding of the distinction between delirium and dementia in elderly patients, and the various medical and environmental factors that can impede accurate diagnosis. Other topics include safe walking techniques and the elements of hospitalization that can contribute to functional decline in elderly patients. The original course is four hours. The School of Nursing and Nursing Practice plan to develop additional courses.

The late Gail Ingersoll, Ed. D., R.N., F.A.A.N., F.N. A. P., former director of Clinical Nursing Research at Strong Memorial Hospital, initially applied for the grant, which was awarded shortly after her death in December, 2011. Ingersoll was a pioneer in the field of nursing research who focused on helping clinical nursing staff integrate evidence-based research into practice and continually improve care to patients.


For additional information on the School of Nursing, contact Christine Roth at 585-273-4494 or email her at