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UAMS Hopes to Use New Investment to Curb Arkansas' Shortage of Geriatric Nurses

There is a health care problem in Arkansas right now. The state is already leading the nation in terms of its senior population, and according to Little Rock's Channel 7 News, it's expected that 24% of Arkansans will be over the age of 65 by the year 2025 -- what's worse, many retiring nurses will be among those ranks. Our nationwide nurse shortage couldn't come at a worse time for Arkansas. One school, however, is fighting back.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences was just awarded $250,000 by national program Partners Investing in Nursing's Future (PIN), in conjunction with the Arkansas Community Foundation, one of ten foundations receiving funding from PIN this year. As Channel 7 reports, the school will be using that money to "lead an innovative effort to raise the number of college-educated geriatrics nurses in Arkansas nursing homes."

While the average population age of Arkansas continues to rise, unfortunately the same thing cannot be said about the population of working nurses. The news report states that "nationally, the shortage of registered nurses is expected to reach 29% by 2020. Add to that the fact that of the 2.56 million registered nurses in the U.S., fewer than 15,000 are certified gerontological nurses." Nurses, especially those with adult health nursing degrees and experience, are in growing demand for Arkansas hospitals and nursing homes.

That said, with the new grant UAMS is poised to expand and develop its school of nursing, and ramp up their recruitment tactics. "Arkansas Community Foundation has a long history of support for aspiring nurses," says the foundation's President and CEO Heather Larkin Eason, "and the PIN Partners grant now allows us to take a more systematic approach to our state's nursing shortage. We're pleased to collaborate with our partnering agencies to create an educational pathway for nurses that will address the needs of Arkansas's aging population."

Ideally, the school hopes to recruit LPNs and certified nursing assistants currently staffed at nursing homes, who need that extra push of support and financial aid to go back and get their higher level RN to BSN degree. Nurses with bachelor degrees and gerontology expertise are critical right now, says Claudia Beverly, PhD, RN, who is currently overseeing the project at UAMS: "Without significant effort, we risk neglecting a generation of seniors who will need those specially trained nurses... That's why I am so excited about this grant. We have an opportunity to really strengthen the quality of care and quality of life in nursing homes through a better prepared geriatrics nurse work force."

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