Grant Provides Tuition Support, Stipends for Geriatrics Study

By Michele McDonald

Robin Remsburg

Mason’s School of Nursing is using a nearly $1 million grant to educate nurses, social workers, nursing and social work students, and caregivers on how to treat several debilitating conditions that can devastate older adults.

Mason students receive a boost from the three-year Partners for Education in Geriatrics (PEG-B) grant because it includes $90,000 a year in tuition support and stipends. Mason’s Department of Social Work also will work with the School of Nursing on the grant.

“We’re trying to recruit students to go into geriatrics,” says Robin Remsburg, director of the School of Nursing. “We’re focusing with this grant on what we call the three Ds—dementia, depression, and delirium. These are all conditions that are prevalent in older adults and are very problematic for caregivers, nurses, physicians, and families.”

The need to understand the three Ds is on the rise. Almost 10 percent of Northern Virginia’s 1.1 million population in 2010 was 65 years or older, according to U.S. Census data. “As our population is growing, we need more nurses to take care of patients over 65,” says Lisa Campo, assistant professor and coordinator of the Nurse Practitioner Program.

Of those older adults, Remsburg says, 15 percent report depression and 12.2 percent report dementia. Thirty to 40 percent of hospitalized patients experience delirium, a medical condition that can develop when patients are hospitalized and are not getting enough sleep, have infections, or are dehydrated. Delirium can lead to confusion, falls, and longer hospital stays.

School of Nursing professors monitor students in the Simulation Lab on the Fairfax Campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn.

Specialized education is essential if older adults are to receive the best care, Remsburg says. “The need is huge. Any of us who go through training in the medical profession all get a little bit of training in depression, dementia, and delirium, but it’s in conjunction with everything else we have to learn.”

The scholarship money is a key piece of the grant, Campo says. Two full-time and two part-time students will receive tuition support and stipends every year for three years. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) students Maria Obeid, Cathleen Scully, and Bev Middle, and MSN student Ada Izuwanne were among the first cohort of students selected to receive the PEG-B trainee-ships.

“The scholarships are allowing students to go into geriatrics,” Campo says. “In the past, we’ve had students who wanted to do geriatric specialty training but couldn’t afford it.”

Some of the Partners for Education in Geriatrics (PEG-B) grant money will support nursing students interested in geriatric specialty training. Photo by Creative Services.

The grant also builds upon a new certification that’s available this year—adult geriatric nurse practitioner.

Regional Conferences, Partnerships in the Works

The School of Nursing plans to host regional conferences, such as one on Alzheimer’s disease hosted with the Virginia Geriatric Education Center, to bring together geriatric experts. “This new grant is allowing us to bring in more national speakers, draw on new curriculum, and get us involved with more community partners,” Campo says.

The school will also host educational offerings in nursing homes and hospitals and will work with the National Capital Area Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, as well as other local groups.

The current grant builds on a previous $500,000 grant that ended in June. Improving the knowledge and competency of nurse educators to teach nursing students about the care of older adults was the primary goal for the first grant, says Remsburg, and that emphasis continues with the latest grant.

It’s also a personal mission for Remsburg. “I’m a gerontological nurse,” she says. “It’s something I’ve been working toward for a long time—the care of older adults. Education is a big part of it, and continuing education. Some of what we learned in nursing school in the ’70s may not be as applicable as what we know now. We need to continue to update and look at the growing evidence.”

Along with Campo and Remsburg, other faculty involved with the grant include DeAnne Zwicker, term assistant professor in nursing; Margaret Rodan, assistant dean in the nursing master’s division; and Catherine Tompkins, assistant dean for undergraduate studies in the Department of Social Work.

Older adult organizations also support nursing education through scholarships. Four Mason nursing students each recently won $2,000 scholarships from AARP: Patience Adjaho, Irene Ndege, Dorothea Johnson, and Grace An.

This article originally appeared on the university’s News site.

To read more stories about Mason, check out the university’s News site.

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