Health AGEnda

Sarah Szanton: Helping Older Adults Remain at Home

Our 2010 Annual Report, “A Day in the Life of an Academic Geriatric Nurse,” includes photographic profiles of 18 nurses who have received BAGNC awards or who play key roles in the program. Today we feature Sarah Szanton, PhD, CRNP, from the Johns Hopkins University School of  Nursing, who received a 2005-2007 BAGNC pre-doctoral scholarship award and a Claire M. Fagin 2009-2011 post-doctoral fellowship. She is conducting a research project to help older adults remain in their homes.

JAHF: Your research project attempts to help low-income older adults age in place. Can you tell us how you got interested in this issue?

Sarah: Several years ago, as a nurse practitioner, I made house calls to low-income older adults. In many cases I saw that their home environment was just as disabling as their health problems. I thought if we could fix the holes in their floors, put banisters on their stairs, and repair the loose carpeting we could encourage their mobility and ability to care for themselves, decrease their social isolation, and help with their mood. In Baltimore many people live in row houses with front steps made of marble and no railing. Even if older adults living in these houses can move around within their house, it can be dangerous to leave the house.

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Jimmy Reyes: Improving Health for Latinos with Diabetes

Our 2010 Annual Report, “A Day in the Life of an Academic Geriatric Nurse,” includes photographic profiles of 18 nurses who have received BAGNC awards or who play key roles in the program. Today we feature Jimmy Reyes, DNP, MSN, RN, who received a 2008-2010 BAGNC predoctoral scholarship award to study diabetes self-management in Latino older adults.

JAHF: Your research is focused on the health care needs of underserved populations, specifically Latino older adults living in rural communities. How did you get started with this?

Reyes with restaurant owner in Iowa

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Jean Wyman: Transforming Geriatric Nursing Education

Our 2010 Annual Report, “A Day in the Life of an Academic Geriatric Nurse,” features photographic profiles of 18 nurses who have received BAGNC awards or who play key roles in the program. An essential component of the BAGNC Initiative is a series of grants that have established nine Centers of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at schools of nursing to advance geriatric nursing research, education, and practice. Jean Wyman, PhD, RN, is the Director of the Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at the University of Minnesota, School of Nursing.

JAHF: In your leadership role at the Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence you are focused on providing new and existing faculty with geriatric expertise. Can you talk about the specific programs your center has developed?

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Monika Eckfield: Helping Hoarders

Our 2010 Annual Report, “A Day in the Life of an Academic Geriatric Nurse,” includes photographic profiles of 18 nurses who have received BAGNC awards or who play key roles in the program. To supplement the profiles, we will be posting interviews with several of these outstanding nurses over the next month. Today we feature Monika Eckfield, RN, PhD. She received a BAGNC predoctoral scholarship award in 2004 to 2006 to study the effects of hoarding behaviors in older adults.

JAHF: What inspired you to pursue a doctorate in geriatric nursing?

Monika: I had a master’s degree in geriatric nursing, and I was working as a geriatric care manager. Dr. Jeanie Kayser-Jones, who was the director of the Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at UCSF, encouraged me to get a PhD and introduced me to Dr. Meg Wallhagen, who became my mentor. Dr. Kayser-Jones was the biggest cheerleader for anyone thinking about going for a doctorate in geriatric nursing. Dr. Wallhagen told me about the opportunities offered by the BAGNC scholarship and encouraged me to apply.

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Under the Influence: BAGNC Inspires Nurses

Allow me to introduce you to Melissa Aselage, MSN, RN. Melissa is a Building Academic Geriatric Nursing Capacity (BAGNC) Initiative Pre-doctoral Scholar at the Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing, where she studies techniques to help nursing home staff manage meal time behaviors in residents with dementia.  Melissa is also a full-time lecturer at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington School of Nursing, where she educates nursing students to care for older adults.

As a student, Melissa, like most of her peers, had no interest in geriatrics.  Back then, she thought, “I don’t want to work with older adults and I’ll never work in a nursing home.”  Yet, after graduation, Melissa found herself working in a nursing home. She realized, “If you don’t make the commitment to stay and to make a difference and change it, then it doesn’t ever get any better . . . I wanted to make a difference at a national and international level to improve the quality of care we are delivering in the nursing home setting for our older adults.”

Today, Melissa is conducting her dementia research in nursing homes and using her influence as a role model to inspire nursing students. “If I can influence any of them to go into geriatric nursing, then I feel I have done a good job,” she says.

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