Media Relations

Hartford Institute / AACN Award Honors Nursing Schools for Innovative Gerontology Curricula

Share |

Press Release
For Immediate Release

Hartford Institute / AACN Award Honors Nursing Schools
for Innovative Gerontology Curricula

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 6, 2005 - The John A. Hartford Foundation Institute for Geriatric Nursing, in collaboration with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), is pleased to announce the winners of the 2005 Awards for Baccalaureate Education in Geriatric Nursing. Presented at AACN's fall meeting, awards were given to one faculty member at Radford University (VA) and three schools of nursing: Fairfield University (CT), Grand Valley State University (MI), and Hawaii Pacific University.

Now in its eighth year, this national awards program was created to recognize model baccalaureate programs in nursing with a strong focus on gerontological nursing. Awards are presented to nursing programs that exhibit exceptional, substantive, and innovative baccalaureate curriculum in this subject area. Beyond innovation, programs must also demonstrate relevance in the clinical environment and have the ability to be replicated at schools of nursing across the country.

"We are delighted to join with the Hartford Institute in honoring curriculum leaders and sharing these winning models with the world," said AACN President Jean E. Bartels, PhD, RN. "AACN encourages nursing schools across the country to look to the 2005 winners as strong examples of what can be done to improve nursing care for older adults."

Awards were presented in four separate categories to the following:

  • Geriatric Faculty Member Award
    Virginia Burggraf, DNS, RN, FAAN, Radford University (VA)
  • Infusing Geriatrics into the Curriculum Award
    Fairfield University (CT)
  • Clinical Settings in Geriatric Nursing Award
    Grand Valley State University (MI)
  • Stand-Alone Baccalaureate Geriatric Course Award
    Hawaii Pacific University (HI)
"These awards honor models of excellence that encourage the highest standards for preparing nurses to deliver quality care to the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population," said Mathy Mezey, EdD, RN, FAAN, director of the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing. "We are delighted to honor nursing schools at the forefront of preparing students through outstanding geriatric curricula and innovative programs."

Reviewers sought small, innovative, and promising programs, as well as larger, well-established curricula, that could be showcased as proven models of excellence. Among other elements, such programs have separate, free-standing courses that focus on gerontology; use multiple clinical sites creatively; form partnerships with community resources; have faculty knowledgeable in and committed to geriatric nursing care; and integrate gerontological experiences into the overall curriculum.

Abstracts and Profiles

Geriatric Faculty Member Award
Virginia Burggraf, DNS, RN, FAAN, Radford University (VA)

Profile: Dr. Virginia Burggraf is well known in gerontological nursing, having been active in the field for over twenty-five years. As Distinguished Professor of Gerontological Nursing at Radford University, Dr. Burggraf has numerous grants to develop leadership initiatives for students to serve aging populations and advance the science of gerontological nursing. Among her many accomplishments, she developed the first curriculum in gerontological nursing at Louisiana State University School of Nursing (LSU) and facilitated the Louisiana State Nurses Association's (LSNA) first Geriatric Nursing Interest Group. She was the first nurse in the state to receive ANCC certification in gerontological nursing (1982) and received an AJN Book of the Year award for her 1989 text: Nursing the Elderly: A Care Plan Approach. She co-authored the seminal text, The Nursing Process and The Older Adult, which received the AJN Book of the Year Award and went on to publish another text, Geriatric Nursing: Current Research and Practice, which was among the first gerontology texts to address Healthy People 2000. As an advocate for the older adult, she became the long-term care policy analyst for the American Nurses Association and later developed proposals with funding over $3,000,000 for American Nurses Foundation. She has a monthly newspaper column, "Ginger Says," in which she reaches over 66,000 seniors with health information. She is a member of 5 editorial review boards and edits a column: Healthy People 2010 in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing. Dr. Burggraf received her doctorate in Gerontological Nursing from LSU in 1996. She is a Fellow in the National Gerontological Nursing Association and the American Academy of Nursing (AAN). She is a member of the AAN expert panel on long-term care.

Infusing Geriatrics into the Curriculum Award
Fairfield University (CT)

Abstract: Over the past three years, Fairfield University School of Nursing (FUSON) has systematically enhanced geriatrics across its undergraduate curriculum. The goals of the FUSON project were to: 1) produce nurses prepared with the knowledge, experience and commitment to advocate for and address the health needs and quality of life concerns of older adults and 2) develop within faculty the necessary expertise to create classroom and clinical learning experiences that engage the aging community and impassion students about working with older adults. All faculty were encouraged to participate in a planning subcommittee after attending a weeklong workshop led by three renowned geriatric experts, resulting in a new content map guided by Best Nursing Practices in Care of Older Adults Curriculum Guide (Hartford Institute, 2001) and Recommended Baccalaureate Competencies and Curricular Guidelines for Geriatric Nursing Care (AACN/ Hartford Foundation, 2000). Pre- and post-attitude surveys provide evidence that graduates had more positive impressions about working with older adults. In a national content exam validated by Educational Resources Incorporated, students exceeded the national average for geriatric knowledge competency. Qualitative evidence from student journals and course evaluations further demonstrate the positive impact. Intra-faculty collaboration has grown to an unprecedented level that has enhanced scholarly productivity and led to new grants programs involving community dwelling elderly, continuing education for practitioners and spiritual program enhancement.

Clinical Settings in Geriatric Nursing Award
Grand Valley State University (MI)

Abstract: The curriculum objective was to integrate gerontology classroom content and clinical experiences in most required nursing courses. The gerontology team, composed of Kirkhof College of Nursing (KCON) faculty who had an interest in gerontology, developed the Longitudinal Elder Initiative (LEI) assignment that was implemented with a pilot group of 8 students in Winter Semester 2004. This longitudinal assignment is based on the Recommended Baccalaureate Competencies and Curricular Guidelines for Geriatric Nursing Care (AACN/ Hartford Foundation, 2000) and curricular guidelines for geriatric nursing care as previously mapped into the BSN curriculum. The LEI provides exposure to geriatrics early in the program, in the first clinical nursing course, and builds upon this experience throughout the curriculum. In addition, every course in the undergraduate nursing program focuses on the holistic needs of clients across the lifespan. In the clinical setting, students are placed in a continuum of clinical sites as they progress through the curriculum allowing them to accordingly apply the LEI assignments and other nursing interventions with gerontological clients. Evidence of positive outcomes was measured in student evaluations. The LEI pilot group graduated in April 2005. All 8 members participated in a focus group which sought their evaluations of the LEI project. Their feedback included their appreciation of being a member of the pilot group and how they benefited from their four semesters of caring for older adults. The first entire class of 64 students involved in the LEI graduated August 2005; their constructive feedback is being used to further improve the LEI project. All BSN students are now required to complete the LEI, and the project currently has 256 students paired with elders from 21 diverse community locations.

Stand-Alone Baccalaureate Geriatric Course Award
Hawaii Pacific University (HI)

Abstract: Gerontologic Nursing is a stand alone required core course for junior level nursing students with both didactic and clinical components. The didactic component bases the context of the course upon the ANA Standards of Gerontological Nursing, Dungan's Model, and Leininger's Sunrise Model of Culture Care. Together these form the basis for the study of normal age-related changes in the psychosocial and physical aspects of aging. Concepts such as stereotyping, ethnocentrism, and cultural imposition are introduced early to prepare students to recognize their own stereotypes toward aging. Establishing what is normal aging and emphasizing healthy norms for elders assists in breaking down negative stereotypes. Content on normal age-related changes and lifestyle choices are correlated with the resulting risk for diseases prevalent among elders. Nursing care of elders to prevent, treat, and adapt to diseases is presented with the intent to maintain optimal function and quality of life. And finally, students study hospice care as a standard for providing healthy end-of-life care to clients in any setting. The clinical component of Gerontologic Nursing includes experiential classroom exercises, visits to elders who are not institutionalized, and service learning participation in community agencies that reflect healthy aging or healthy adaptation to disease. Role-playing activities assist the students to consider moral and ethical aspects of nursing leadership in gerontological nursing. Case studies facilitate discussions on different cultural backgrounds and worldviews. Aging Game by Slack Publishers allows students to experience and discuss lack of control, stereotypes, and limitations related to aging and disease. In the Senior Companion Program students utilize therapeutic communication with consideration for the sensory changes of aging. Students establish a relationship with the elder that includes assessment of social, spiritual and activity interests resulting in mutually determined activities that include walking, shopping, and even reviewing photo albums. This relationship encourages elders to share life experiences and their perspectives on aging and health, while students encourage reminiscence, life review, and health. Students also assist and/or participate in healthy aging events such as the Senior Olympics, Senior Health Fairs, and advisory boards of various partner agencies.


The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is the national voice for university and four-year college education programs in nursing. Representing more than 670 member schools of nursing at public and private institutions nationwide, AACN's educational, research, governmental advocacy, data collection, publications, and other programs work to establish quality standards for bachelor's- and graduate-degree nursing education, assist deans and directors to implement those standards, influence the nursing profession to improve health care, and promote public support of baccalaureate and graduate nursing education, research, and practice.

The Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, proudly housed at the New York University College of Nursing, seeks to shape the quality of health care older Americans receive by promoting the highest level of geriatric competence in all nurses. By raising the standards of nursing care, the Hartford Institute aims to ensure that people age with optimal function, comfort, and dignity. The Hartford Institute identifies and develops best practices in nursing care of older adults and infuses these practices into the education of every nursing student and the work environment of every practicing professional nurse. The Hartford Institute encourages national leadership to establish best practice as the standard for geriatric nursing care.


Robert Rosseter, 202-463-6930, ext. 231