Geriatric Content for All Nurse Practitioner Programs: A Population-Driven Imperative

Amy L. Silva-Smith, PhD, APRN, BC, ANP; Ernestine Kotthoff-Burrell, PhD, RN-C, ANP


Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2009;9(4) 

In This Article

Nurse Practitioners and Care of the Elderly

Primary care nurse practitioners (NPs) who serve adult and geriatric clients may be from adult, family, or women's health specialties. The "graying of America" compels these providers to have a basic understanding of the normal and abnormal processes of aging.

Although 98 programs prepare gerontologic NPs (GNPs),[1] the number of graduates is grossly insufficient to meet all the needs of older adult patients. According to the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, only 11,250 (8%) of 141,209 NPs in the United States are prepared as gerontologic/geriatric specialists. Only 6186 of these are certified as gerontologic specialists by a national certifying agency.[2]

Adult and family NPs make up the largest percentage of advanced practice graduates in the United States.[3] Given the population demographics and the paucity of GNPs, it is unrealistic to expect that the needs of older adults will be met solely by the preparation of GNPs. Therefore, faculty must examine current curricula, and revise and enhance content to include the needs of the geriatric client in all programs that prepare adult, family, and women's health advanced practice nurses.

This article describes the population demographics that are driving the need for increased education about aging adults, summarizes the recommended competencies for care of the older adult, and provides faculty resources to enhance or revise existing curricula to better emphasize the unique needs of this population.

The Elderly: Population Demographics

The anticipated population explosion of older adults is upon us. In 2008, there were 38.7 million Americans age 65 years and older.[4] In 2030, when the last of the baby boomers reaches age 65 years, the older adult population will double to 72 million individuals, who will account for more hospitalizations than any other age group.[5] In addition, adults older than age 85 years are and will be the fastest-growing segment of the population. The number of persons age 85 and over is expected to triple between 2010 and 2040.[4]


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