College of Nursing in Searcy receives prestigious national award

SEARCY, Ark.—Harding’s College of Nursing received the 2008 Awards for Excellence in Gerontological Nursing Education for the category of Baccalaureate-Level Curricular Innovation on Oct. 19 at the Fairmont Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The College received a $500 award and national recognition from the John A. Hartford Foundation Institute for Geriatric Nursing and American Association of Colleges of Nursing for its superior gerontology program. Only one graduate and undergraduate institution receives this highly competitive award each year. Accepting the award for Harding were Dr. Cathleen Shultz, professor of nursing, and Elizabeth Lee, assistant professor.

Harding’s College of Nursing won the grant the first time it applied.  Shultz, Dean of the College, called the application process a team effort.  Students and faculty worked together to produce an innovative and outstanding project in the spring of 2008.

Receipt of the award was due largely to a change in curriculum involving student participation in the Ombudsmen program, which was founded in 1972 to meet the needs of nursing home residents. Each state is now required to have an Ombudsmen program according to the federal Older Americans Act of 1992.

Said Shultz, “The state of Arkansas was among the first in the U.S. to require a geriatric nursing course of all nursing programs.” The requirement was put into place almost 15 years ago, in part because Arkansas has the fourth highest elderly population in the country.  “Research information about geriatric nursing care has exploded over the last decade,” commented Shultz.

Harding’s nursing students have also conducted international research on the elderly. The College of Nursing helped begin Harding in Zambia, an international studies program which puts major emphasis on healthcare. Nursing students in Zambia are able to see the way other cultures revere their elderly and treat their health problems. Students are offered additional international experiences under the direction of nursing faculty Lisa Engel and Janice Bingham in Haiti and Tanzania.

Shultz expects a ripple effect to occur once Harding nursing students return to their communities and travel to foreign countries. They will be able to apply research that they are conducting as students and teach methods of elder care. Shultz believes that other schools could easily replicate Harding’s award-winning gerontology program.

Shultz commented, “The key with elder care is keeping the elderly mobile and healthy. So many medicines and treatments are out there now that if you can only get the aging into care early, they are going to have a better quality of life.”

Founded in 1929, the John A. Hartford Foundation champions health care training and research that will ensure the well-being and mobility of older adults. It aims to increase America’s capacity to provide effective, affordable care to its growing older population.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing is the national voice for America’s nursing education programs. It works to establish quality standards for learning and promote public support of nursing education, research, and practice.

Harding had a record enrollment this year of more than 6,500 students from 50 states and 55 foreign countries. It is the largest private university in Arkansas and attracts more National Merit Scholars than any other private university in the state. Harding also maintains campuses in Australia, Chile, England, France/Switzerland, Greece, Italy and Zambia.