Five years ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) at the National Academy of Sciences peered into the future and predicted a crisis.
The population of older adults in the US was growing faster than the number of health care providers trained to work with the elderly. The result, said the IOM in its watershed 2008 report Retooling for an Aging America, would be an overwhelming increase in sickness, debilitation, depression and discomfort. A data-driven call to arms, the report called for more and better geriatric preparation for all caregivers, from physicians to nurse practitioners to family caregivers.
UCSF School of Nursing was listening. School faculty reviewed their curriculum, conferred with colleagues nationwide and weighed in at policy sessions responding to the report.
One of the most significant results, which took effect in the fall of 2012, was the merger of what was a separate gerontology specialty master’s degree program with other adult advanced practice nursing programs (nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists) for combined degrees. The aim: an advanced practice adult nursing force trained to care for their patients across the adult life span.
“It’s great that all the nurses are getting gerontology,” says Meg Wallhagen, director of the School’s John A. Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence. “But I’m very concerned that after gerontology finally became recognized as a specialty, we could be going back to where nurses may not get the necessary depth of training that’s essential to care for the complex needs of older adults.”