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Submitted by Nina M. Riccio on July 19, 2012

Three years ago, the HRSA Foundation funded a grant worth $467,865 to Fairfield’s School of Nursing with the aim of providing continuing education to registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and nursing assistants caring for older adults. At the time, Drs. Phil Greiner and Jean Lange were the principal investigators (PIs) for the grant, officially called the Expanded Learning and Dedication to Elders in the Region (ELDER) Project. homepage.

The goal of the project was to link Fairfield University’s School of Nursing with multiple healthcare agencies and provide best practices education to RNs, LPNs, and NAs involved with the care of older adults. A “train the trainer” model was used to ensure that new staff would continue to benefit from this grant initiative after the funding period was over.

“We targeted four agencies in home care, long term care, or ambulatory care settings located in underserved regions of greater Bridgeport,” said Dr. Diana Mager, the project’s current PI. In the first two years, 107 nurses and aides completed the on-site educational programs. This year, another 139 nurses, aides, occupational and speech therapists, and dietary and pastoral care personnel were awarded certificates of completion. Though the program has just ended, information will continue to be disseminated through conferences and presentations over the next two years.

The ELDER project used innovative strategies such as group discussion of case studies, values clarification exercises and an emphasis on a team approach to best practices and end of life care. Nurses and aides participated jointly in order to foster improved communication, teamwork and shared decision-making skills.

“During the three year grant period, Fairfield partnered with four community agencies as well as their satellite offices,” noted Dr. Mager. “We used interactive small group methods to teach teamwork and communication, cultural competency, and end of life care.”

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