Innovative UCLA program provides opportunity for nurses to focus on gerontology

UCLA Health article
As America ages, the health care industry will be increasingly challenged on how to train and prepare professionals to care for older patients and for the unique and complicated attention they often require.
An original educational program at the UCLA School of Nursing designed with just such goals in mind will be the focus of a presentation at the Western Institute for Nursing Conference, which runs from April 18 to 21 in Portland.
Administered through the UCLA School of Nursing's Center for the Advancement of Gerontological Nursing Science, the Young Scholars Program identifies students early in their pre-licensure program who are interested in caring for older adults and offers them the opportunity to participate in a highly personalized and engaging one- to three-year mentorship experience.
Students accepted into the program are matched with faculty mentors and participate in a variety of projects, including co-authorship of research and clinically focused articles, podium and poster research presentations, and involvement as paid research assistants on faculty research grants.
"The Young Scholars Program has been thoughtfully designed to help bachelor's and master's entry clinical nurse students develop exceptional research, educational and professional skills focused on caring for older adults," said Janet Mentes, an associate professor at UCLA and one of the faculty members who will be presenting at Western Institute for Nursing conference. "These students develop specialized 'gero-smart' nursing skills and accelerate into a Ph.D. program after completing their basic nursing coursework."
Mentes points out that along with an aging society, the current nursing education workforce is also aging, with an average age of 58, and the retirement of many experienced educators is expected. That makes it essential, she said, to "develop programs that will prepare the faculty necessary for educating future generations of nurses in the care of aging persons. UCLA's Young Scholars Program does just that."
In the three years since its inception and initial funding through a federal Health Resources and Services Administration grant, UCLA's Young Scholars Program has mentored eight students, five of whom have been accepted into Ph.D. programs and two who have entered the gerontological nursing practice. There are currently three young scholars who will be graduating this year and another four who will join the Young Scholars in September — a program that Mentes says has been "embedded" into the fabric of the UCLA School of Nursing.
Other UCLA School of Nursing faculty members who take a leadership role in the Young Scholars Program and who will be co-presenting at conference include Linda Phillips, a professor who holds the Audrienne H. Moseley Endowed Chair in Nusring; adjunct professor Mary Cadogan; and assistant professor Lynn Woods.
The Western Institute of Nursing is a professional organization of registered nurses and other health care professionals dedicated to advancing nursing science, education and practice to improve health care outcomes.
The UCLA School of Nursing is redefining nursing through the pursuit of uncompromised excellence in research, education, practice, policy and patient advocacy. Rated among the nation's top nursing schools by U.S. News & World Report, the school also is ranked No. 4 in nursing research funded by the National Institutes of Health and No. 1 in NIH stimulus funding. In 2010–11, the school received $24 million in total research grant funding and was awarded 26 faculty research grants. The school offers programs for undergraduate (B.S.), postgraduate (M.S.N. and M.E.C.N.) and doctoral (Ph.D.) students.
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