The American Geriatrics Society presented Elizabeth “Ibby” Tanner, PhD, MS, RN, with the 2014 Dennis W. Jahnigen Memorial Award on May 16 during its Annual Scientific Meeting Awards Ceremony in New York.

The Jahnigen Memorial Award is given annually to an American Geriatrics Society (AGS) member who has provided outstanding leadership training for students in geriatrics and has contributed to the progress of geriatrics education in health professions schools.

Since joining the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing (JHSON) in 2004, Tanner has been instrumental in enhancing the baccalaureate and master’s curriculum so that all nurses are educated and prepared to care for older adults. An associate professor in the Department of Community and Public Health, she developed the nursing school’s Geriatric Interest Group (GIG), which attracts students to learn more about aging and what a geriatrics nursing career can encompass. The GIG provides discussion groups, unique learning opportunities, and mentoring programs. The success of the program has led to the development of GIGs at other nursing schools.

“I’ve said to students, ‘Don’t go into geriatrics if you just want a simple nursing job,” Tanner said in accepting the award. “Caring for older adults is only for those top-notch nurses who are really smart, like challenges, are caring and compassionate, and can care for the most complex patients. Not just anyone can do that.' It has worked like a charm. The response I often get is, ‘Well, I want to do it! I want to go into gerontological nursing!’ ”

Tanner has been a curriculum development consultant with the National Expert Panel on Baccalaureate Nursing Geriatric Competencies, and contributed to Recommended Baccalaureate Competencies and Curricular Guidelines for Geriatric Nursing Care, which sets national standards for geriatrics education in nursing. She has also taught and mentored students in Australia, China, Germany, Kenya, Lebanon, and India, assisting in curriculum development and interdisciplinary assessment at hospitals and universities.

On Johns Hopkins’ medical campus in East Baltimore, Tanner co-directs interprofessional education with colleague Laura Hanyok from the School of Medicine. One of her projects, funded in memory of Worth Daniels, also a geriatrician, involves bringing students together from the JHU Schools of Medicine and Nursing with those from the Notre Dame of Maryland University School of Pharmacy to make home visits to low-income, homebound older adults in Baltimore City.

“We must all learn to work together …to deliver care in different ways than we have been doing in the past,” Tanner said. “We must learn to collaborate harmoniously, like an orchestra or symphony perhaps, with the patient/family at the center acting as the conductor, giving us signals that indicate their needs and telling us when we are doing it well, or not—a metaphor for interprofessional collaboration.”

“Without exaggeration, Dr. Tanner has taught and inspired several thousand nurses to recognize the care of older adults as a special and necessary skill,” said Samuel Durso, MD, AGSF, director of the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “She is widely recognized for her leadership in training nurses and her efforts to increase interprofessional education of nurses and other healthcare professionals.”

Tanner is a fellow of the National Gerontological Nursing Association, a Hartford Institute Geriatric Nursing Research Scholar, and is a member of the Baltimore City Commission on Aging and Retirement Education.

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