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Reynolds Foundation

Confronts critical nursing shortage for aging population

Reynolds Foundation
Reynolds Scholar Diana Sturdevant
OU’s Reynolds Center of Geriatrics Nursing Excellence addresses the urgent shortage of care for our aging population. Reynolds Scholar Diana Sturdevant has spent 30 years in the nursing profession and says the program has changed her life.

Reprinted from Priority, University of Oklahoma Foundation

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is changing the face of aging in Oklahoma through continued support of a ground­breaking OU College of Nursing program. 

Since 2008, the foundation has commit­ted $4.98 million to the Donald W. Reynolds Center of Geriatrics Nursing Excellence. The center was established to tackle the reality that America’s population is rapidly aging amidst a critical nursing shortage. A lack of qualified faculty is at the crux of the inability to train sufficient nurses; in 2014, more than 8,000 ap­plicants were turned away from nursing col­leges nationwide due to faculty shortages. 

The Reynolds Center addresses this prob­lem by funding doctoral students who will be­come highly qualified faculty members in geri­atrics. “We wanted to address the root cause,” said Rani Snyder, program director for the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. “This strat­egy supports the development of a large and diverse group of faculty committed to long-term careers in teaching who will prepare the next generation of nurses to care for our aging population.”

“Clearly, Oklahoma is in desperate need of nurses right now in hospitals, in clinics, in home-care agencies, and this is one extraor­dinary way to move future nursing faculty quickly through the pipeline,” said OU Col­lege of Nursing Dean Lazelle Benefield. She added that the Reynolds Center is one of only 10 centers of Geriatric Nursing Excellence in the United States and the sole nursing initia­tive funded by the Reynolds Foundation.

Two Reynolds Predoctoral Scholarships are awarded annually, giving candidates the free­dom to focus on their studies while “pulling back” from full-time jobs in nursing. Reyn­olds Scholars attend national meetings and are paired with a mentor actively involved in geriatrics research. Currently, Reynolds Schol­ars are exploring such topics as financial ex­ploitation of seniors and strategies to maintain physical balance and mobility.

Reynolds Scholar Diana Sturdevant of McAlester is researching the “culture change” movement in long-term care, which encour­ages nursing home residents to control their daily schedules rather than follow institutional routines. Sturdevant, a 30-year geriatrics nurs­ing veteran and 2007 OU nursing master’s graduate, said the Reynolds program has clari­fied her career mission and fostered an interest in forming policy change. 

“The mentorship, support and connections have opened a lot of doors,” she said. “I’ve be­come more confident in advocating and push­ing for what is needed to take care of residents in nursing homes.”

Another primary focus of the Reynolds Center is the movement toward “aging in place,” said Dean Benefield. 

“We know that to be able to age in place healthy and with dignity, you have to be able to manage wellness and illness in the preferred environment, which is usually the home,” she explained. “We’re crafting solutions. We must have strategies so people can feel safe, socialize and have good health while aging in place.”

 Solutions generated by the Reynolds Center are disseminated throughout the state thanks to the Oklahoma Geriatric Nursing Education Workgroup, which has brought together nurs­ing faculty from 20 different programs to share best practices and educational materials.

“For the science of nursing to be advanced, we need people to sit at the table who are in­volved in interdisciplinary work and a full member of the team,” said Barbara Holtzclaw, associate dean for research in the College of Nursing. “The role of the nurse-scientist and faculty member is much broader than what we tend to think.”

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