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Danbury Hospital Receives Federal Grant To Promote Family-Centered Geriatric Nursing Care

Thursday, December 24, 2009 - Danbury, CT

Danbury Hospital has received a prestigious three-year federal grant to provide family-centered geriatric nursing care that focuses on the unique health care concerns and cultural sensitivities of older patients.

The $480,000 grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration will provide continuing education opportunities to registered nurses and nursing assistants across Connecticut and the nation.

The grant will enable Danbury Hospital to bring award-winning faculty to the institution and develop a web-based continuing education tool-kit that will be available to nursing professionals nationwide. The hospital received $160,000 for the first year; future support is subject to the availability of funds and satisfactory progress of the project.

“Our goal is to ensure the entire nursing team has the skills and competencies to care for our various patient populations, including understanding the unique needs of the elderly,” said Moreen Donahue, DNP, RN, chief nurse executive and senior vice president of Patient Care Services at Danbury Hospital.

Providing a higher level of care

The federal grant is the latest development in ongoing efforts to make Danbury Hospital the “provider of choice for patients and the destination hospital for nurses interested in pursuing nursing excellence and research-based best practices,” said Donahue.

Last year, Danbury Hospital established the Harold, Myra and Cora Spratt Center for Nursing Excellence and Research thanks to a major gift from Harold Spratt to the Danbury Hospital Development Fund. Among its many goals, the Spratt Center provides nurses with opportunities to advance their education and careers.

The geriatric nursing grant also builds upon a previous grant to Danbury Hospital from the Donaghue Foundation that focuses on educating and mentoring nursing assistants to effectively communicate changes in patient status.

“We are constantly looking for ways to deliver a higher level of care by expanding our knowledge to better serve our diverse patients,” said Donahue. The communities served by Danbury Hospital have a high concentration of older adults and a 25 percent immigrant population, including many elderly.

Turning the spotlight on geriatric nursing

During the first year of the federal grant, the Danbury Hospital and Danbury Visiting Nurses Association nursing staff, including 100 registered nurses and 50 nursing assistants per year, will begin to receive training in culturally competent, family-centered geriatric care.

During the second and third years, nurses and nursing assistants nationwide will have access to the family-centered geriatric nursing curriculum through a partnership with the Connecticut Hospital Association and the National Institute of Family Centered Care. The goal is to reach a total of 1,300 registered nurses and nursing assistants. Danbury Hospital will also work with Western Connecticut State University and Naugatuck Valley Community College to increase awareness of geriatric nursing issues.

Putting elder care at the forefront

Meredith Wallace, PhD, APRN, associate professor at Yale University School of Nursing, said a vast amount of knowledge regarding elder care has emerged in recent decades. “But many of the nurses taking care of elderly patients never received formal geriatric training, so this knowledge isn’t always used in clinical practice,” she said.

Meantime, the need for geriatric care grows as people live longer and Baby Boomers age. “We are ill prepared for the unique needs of this population,” said Wallace.

At Danbury Hospital, Wallace provided on-site training focusing on best practices in geriatric nursing touching on issues ranging from medication, skin integrity and nutrition to the use of restraints to prevent falls and identifying elder abuse.

Understanding the normal changes that come with aging can have profound implications when caring for elderly patients, said Wallace. Some medications can lead to serious illness unless administered with caution. Changes in immune status can put older adults at a higher risk for developing illness.

The loss of subcutaneous fat puts older adults at risk for skin problems. But nutrition also plays an important role. “Keeping older adults nutritionally sound is important to maintaining skin integrity. The challenge lies in keeping older adults who may have altered appetites because of normal and pathological aging interested in eating.”

Even the traditional use of restraints to prevent older patients from falling has come into question. “Studies show restraints result in more falls, sometimes with serious injuries,” said Wallace. “Instead, we must focus on alternative ways to keep older adults healthy and safe without the use of restraints.”

Family involvement key to elder care

Understanding cultural nuances and involving family members in the care of elderly patients is crucial, said Joyce Fitzpatrick, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Elizabeth Brooks Ford Professor of Nursing at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

“It’s important to involve family members because elderly patients are only in the hospital for a short period of time. We need to embrace the family as a partner in care. That’s why family education is essential,” said Fitzpatrick, a consultant with the Spratt Center for Nursing Excellence and Research at Danbury Hospital.

Having knowledge about cultural differences can also impact care, said Fitzpatrick. For example, being unaware of food preferences or dietary restrictions among certain cultures can lead to misunderstandings. “You may think the patient has no appetite or doesn’t want to eat when the real problem is that we are providing the wrong diet.”

Fitzpatrick, who has worked with institutions across the country and the world, commended Danbury Hospital’s efforts to shed light on elder care issues. “The hospital administration and nursing staff are deeply committed to excellence,” she said.

About Danbury Hospital

Danbury Hospital is a 371-bed regional medical center and university teaching hospital associated with New York Medical College, the Yale University School of Medicine, the Connecticut School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. The hospital provides centers of excellence in cardiovascular services, cancer, weight loss surgery, orthopedics, digestive disorders and radiology. It also offers specialized programs for sleep disorders and asthma management. Medical staff members are board certified in their specialties.

In the area of cardiac care, Danbury Hospital is ranked number one in Connecticut for cardiac surgery and in the top 5 percent nationally for overall cardiac care by HealthGrades®. This is the second consecutive year for the national award.

Danbury Hospital is nationally ranked in the Top 5% in the Nation for Women’s Health and a recipient of the 2009/2010 Women’s Health Excellence Award for providing services to women and is in the top 5 percent of hospitals in the country for overall clinical performance by HealthGrades®, a leading independent health care rating organization. It is the only health care facility in Connecticut ranked among the top 5 percent of hospitals nationwide for overall clinical performance five years in a row.

For more information, or to find a physician, visit DanburyHospital.org, or call toll free 1-800-516-3658.




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