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Drexel Receives Award for Geriatric Mental Health in Undergraduate Nursing Curriculum

October 24, 2011

Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions has received an award for infusing geropsychiatric nursing into its undergraduate nursing curriculum. The award, issued by the American Academy of Nursing’s (AAN) Geriatric Nursing Collaborative, recognizes Drexel’s leadership in preparing the next generation of nurses to address the mental health needs of older patients in a variety of health care settings.

Older adults with physical illness are often susceptible to developing psychiatric symptoms, such as depression, dementia, or substance misuse. As the population of older adults increases, there is a growing need for health professionals who are trained to consider the complex needs of older patients. Drexel received the Infusing Geropsychiatric Nursing into Curriculum Award, in recognition of its role as an early adopter of curriculum recommendations in this area. Drexel was one of just three nursing schools in the country recognized for successfully demonstrating ways geriatric mental health nursing can be integrated into a comprehensive nursing education program. The award committee noted that Drexel showed particular strength and innovation in using technology to improve geropsychiatric nursing care.

Drexel is already a leader in incorporating care of aging adults into nursing education, with required undergraduate nursing courses in contemporary gerontological nursing and aging and longevity. Rose Ann DiMaria-Ghalili, an associate professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions who co-submitted Drexel’s entry, said, “Many schools of nursing do not have a stand-alone gerontology course, and therefore, the unique needs of older adults are not appropriately addressed. Caring for older adults requires a holistic approach that addresses the physical, mental health, and social aspects of aging.”

Cheryl G. Sullivan, CEO of the American Academy of Nursing, said, “we are heartened by the early efforts of these schools who have demonstrated a range of methods to expose undergraduate nursing students to the mental health needs of older adults. Their example will serve as inspiration to others who will follow suit, such that within the next few years, every undergraduate nursing student will benefit from knowledge and skills in this area, and our nation’s seniors will benefit from mental health prevention, early recognition and treatment.”

Drexel’s award was presented today at the AACN 2011 Fall Semiannual Meeting in Washington, D.C., with additional recognition at the AACN Baccalaureate Education Conference in November in St. Louis, Mo. Two other universities also honored with the award are Graceland University in Lamoni, Ia., and Grambling State University, in Grambling, La. Award winners will receive a stipend in recognition of their dedication to furthering geropsychiatric nursing education.