In my 20 years as a nurse educator, I have met many inspiring nursing students. Some have shown incredible leadership skills that will serve the profession well. Others have successfully become nurses despite numerous obstacles and barriers, whereas others have a knack for making every patient feel heard and valued. I especially like the ones who tell me they want to go into home care! I've enjoyed witnessing the new generations of nurses take over, bringing new ideas and energy where it is certainly needed. I recently had dinner with two friends whose husbands have been in and out of the hospital the past year. I was so pleased to hear them rave about the nursing care their spouses received. Don't count me in as one of the nurses who like to “eat their young.” I'm delighted that so many young men and women are hearing and heeding the call to nursing. I recently read in USA Today that Millennials are twice as likely to choose nursing than were members of their grandparent's generation, with enrollment in nursing schools almost doubling in the past decade (USA Today, 2018). This represents quite a shift. As recently as 2012, baby boomers comprised almost half the nurse workforce of 3.5 million nurses. By 2015, this number is expected to fall by 65%, as baby boom nurses retire and the torch is passed to Millennial nurses (Auerbach et al., 2017).
I know one of those baby boomer nurses who isn't ready to retire just yet though. I first met Rhunell Adams 2 years ago when she asked me to be on her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Project Committee at the University of Detroit Mercy where I teach. She is among the first of the generation of baby boom nurses, having graduated from Harper Hospital School of Nursing in Detroit back in 1967. Education has always been important to Rhunell—she earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1988 and her Master of Science in Nursing in 2007. When the DNP degree became the terminal nursing practice degree, she felt compelled to pursue this advanced degree and vowed to graduate by the time she turned 70 years old. Yes, you read that correctly—70 years young!
As the director of a home care agency in Detroit for the last 13 years, Rhunell Adams is a busy person. Still, she finds time to be active in numerous professional organizations as well as taking on the challenge of an advanced degree. Her passion is geriatric care competency among home care nurses, and this is what she chose as her topic for her DNP project. Although Rhunell didn't quite get done by her 70th birthday, I am happy to say she did achieve her goal by her 71st birthday.
In recognition of the high cost and labor-intensive nature of assuring nurse competency, Rhunell's idea is to collaborate with home care directors in her area and provide a custom-made website to provide education and in-service education on geriatric competencies for nurses. The education will be available 24/7 to all nurses employed by the collaborating agencies. The educational modules will focus on identification of geriatric syndromes, best practice interventions, and coordination of care. As with any project, getting buy-in from stakeholders is challenging, but if anyone is up to the task, it's Rhunell Adams. Given the large number of small, independent agencies, this cost-sharing model makes a lot of sense and should be considered in other areas of the country.
I want to wish Rhunell the very best in her future professional endeavors. Congratulation Dr. Adams! You are truly an inspiration.
Auerbach D., Chattopadhyay A., Zangaro G., Staiger D., Buerhaus P. (2017). Improving nursing workforce forecasts: Comparative analysis of the cohort supply model and the health workforce simulation model. Nursing Economics