The University Record, October 8, 2001

Nursing major helps frail and elderly

By Colleen Newvine
News and Information Services

U.S. Census estimates predict the number of Americans, ages 65 and more, will grow from 34.6 million in 1999 to 82 million in 2050—a 137 percent increase, with a significant portion of that growth coming in the group ages 85 and older.

The School of Nursing is introducing a new concentration in care for the frail and elderly, under the direction of Donna Algase, professor of nursing and a faculty associate at the Institute of Gerontology.

“The complexity of dealing with their special kind of vulnerability is beyond what’s addressed in preparation for general advanced practice nursing,” Algase said.

Nurses need to understand not just what these patients need physically, but also to be prepared to address their overall quality of life including the difficult questions of quality vs. longevity, she said. Frailty affects patients physically, psychologically and socially.

Of about 175 graduate students enrolled at the School of Nursing, Algase expects about six each year to participate in the three-course concentration.

She also hopes to offer the series to existing graduate nurses as a continuing education certificate program and to develop a network of nursing schools interested in collaborating to offer the concentration via a distance learning setup.

Algase notes that the School of Nursing already offers a master’s level program for gerontological advanced practice nursing and that the frail elderly concentration is focused on nursing students who perhaps have an interest in treating the elderly but do not want to specialize in it exclusively.

The concentration is funded in part by a three-year, $500,000 grant from the Bureau of Health Professions, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.