The percentage of the population aged 65 and older in Southeast Tennessee is expected to reach 68.5 percent by 2030. While health professionals continue to provide acute care in hospital settings, they must also help transition older patients from the hospital so that they can safely return home or enter assisted care. Keeping patients healthy takes a team approach.
To meet the growing need for healthcare professionals specializing in gerontology, the UTC School of Nursing hired Dr. Brittany Cusack as the Vicky B. Gregg Chair of Gerontology in the School of Nursing. The chair was created by a $1.5 million gift from the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation to honor the distinguished career of the organization’s retired chief executive officer and UT Trustee.
Since joining the nursing faculty, Cusack led the efforts to start an Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program in the School of Nursing, and to create a gerontology concentration in the master of social work program, and both a bachelor’s degree and undergraduate minor in gerontology for the campus.
In light of their extensive focus in gerontology, the UTC School of Nursing became the first university in Tennessee to be invited to join the National Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence (NHCGNE). The mission of the Center is enhance and sustain, “the capacity and competency of nurses to provide quality care to older adults through faculty development, advancing gerontological nursing science, facilitating adoption of best practices, fostering leadership, and designing and shaping policy.”
The Hartford Center’s focus is to ensure a strong gerontological workforce in nursing in the United States and internationally through faculty development, advancing gerontological nursing science, facilitating the adoption of best practices, fostering leadership and designing and shaping policy.
“As the population ages, it is important for nursing to remain at the forefront in educating nurses. Through our association with The Hartford Center, the UTC School of Nursing will have access to the best and the brightest that nursing has to offer as we look at programming and research for this specific population,” said Dr. Chris Smith, UTC School of Nursing director. “I plan on getting older, so I look forward to what we learn, what the research tells us and adding to the best practices in nursing as it relates to gerontology. Our goal is to have a nationally recognized program in gerontological nursing.”