URI-based Geriatric Education Center awarded $1.3 million grant

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Third major grant in 11 years to fund advanced programs

KINGSTON, R.I. – January 3, 2008 — The Rhode Island Geriatric Education Center has been awarded a 3-year, $1.3 million grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand its mission of offering interdisciplinary continuing education for health care professionals.

Since its establishment at the University of Rhode Island in 1996, the center has been awarded a total of $4.15 million in grants from the federal government. The center brings together the Program in Gerontology at URI’s College of Human Science and Services, URI’s Colleges of Nursing and Pharmacy, the Rhode Island College Schools of Social Work and Nursing, the Warren Alpert Brown Medical School, Roger Williams Medical Center, and the Rhode Island Area Health Education Center.

In 1996, the center began offering interdisciplinary education programs for nurses, pharmacists, physicians, social workers and other health and human service professionals around the state. Through a $2.16 million grant in 2002, it expanded its programs to Southeastern Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The new grant will allow the center to provide additional programming at a more advanced level and address the treatment of medically underserved populations, improve health care literacy, and provide more interdisciplinary education for students studying nursing, social work, pharmacy, medicine, and other health care and human service disciplines.

The center continues to offer its seven-workshop series that results in a Certificate in Interdisciplinary Practice in Geriatrics. More than 200 professionals have earned the certification. The workshops provide a background in core issues in geriatric care, such as age-related changes, geriatric assessment, preventive care, legal and ethical issues, clinical teamwork, and factors related to quality of life. Current “hot topics” and “chronic health conditions” are also presented.

According to JoAnn Evans, program manager, “In response to calls for a higher level of programming, we are now developing an advanced track for those in clinical health practice, including doctors, pharmacists, and nurses. The new program will provide education to smaller groups so they can participate in rounds in hospitals or other clinical settings. Currently, the average workshop numbers about 65 participants, too many for clinical settings.”

“Congress wants us to show how we make a difference and show outcomes,” said center Director Phil Clark, URI professor of gerontology. “This is all part of a national trend toward measuring the effects of education on a clinical setting, all with the hope of improving patient care.”

The latest grant is testimony to URI’s leadership in geriatric education, according to Judith Sweeney, the center’s project coordinator. “It’s hard to get funding in geriatrics because it is not glamorous, but it is becoming more and more critical because the country is aging rapidly. This grant allows us to bolster training for professionals so they can work in concert to better help the medically underserved.”

The center hopes to bring educational programs to sites providing care to the medically underserved, such as the community health centers around the state, the Rhode Island Free Clinic in Providence, and Crossroads Rhode Island, an agency that provides assistance to the homeless.

“We are also going to be working with professionals to educate them about the impact of low health literacy on patient care and compliance,” Evans said. “Many patients are unable to act as their own advocates, so even complying with medication regimes could mean the difference between good health, hospitalization, and maybe even death.”

Clark said all of the new programming would follow the original goal of the center—helping professionals work together better. “We are going to be developing clinical sites where professionals from different disciplines will be able to work with each other and with students from different majors.”