A new, interprofessional initiative to develop, advance, and support the well-being of older adults and their families.
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At the School of Nursing, all bachelors students are required to take "Issues in Aging," in their first semester. "We see that as an essential competency for every nurse who graduates from Hopkins," says Associate Professor Elizabeth Tanner.
Faculty members with a research focus in geriatrics — including Tanner, Laura Gitlin, Sarah Szanton, Cheryl Dennison-Himmelfarb, and Nancy Hodgson — investigate issues ranging from fall prevention, to healthcare disparities, to a “guided care” treatment approach.
As the American population ages, the demands on nursing are changing. New training and new approaches to healthcare are required.
At the "Senior Prom," a Valentine-themed dance sponsored by the school’s Geriatric Interest Group, nursing students socialize with—and learn from—seniors living in the Apostolic Towers, a high-rise for low-income, older adults in East Baltimore.
As a student, William Ciaccia, Accelerated '09, took part in the event and swayed on the dance floor with Ella Hawkins, 66, under heart-shaped streamers, a jazz trio playing in the background.
After 18 years in the advertising field, Ciaccia, then 43, decided to change careers to do something that "improves others' lives," leading him to enroll in Hopkins nursing. Over strawberry cupcakes and sugar-free candies, Ciaccia and other students learned about their elderly, mostly African-American, dance partners—lessons that don't come through books and lectures.
"I grew up in the suburbs of a smaller city. I was never really exposed to a lot of diversity," Ciaccia said. "For me, this is a huge eye-opener. This will help make me a better nurse."
Aside from the annual Senior Prom, nursing students also spend time at the high-rise offering health classes, doing checkups, and even helping residents fill out Medicare and Medicaid forms.
"Getting to know their community better will make these future nurses better able to understand the population," says Associate Professor Elizabeth Tanner. "With that knowledge, they will be better able to relate to them and talk with them about health-related topics, such as diet, exercise and medication management."