UAMS, Partners Tackling State’s Geriatrics Nursing Shortage

By David Robinson

ARCF is one of 10 foundations nationwide to receive funding this year from PIN, a national initiative to help address the long-term shortage of nurses across the country. PIN is led by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Northwest Health Foundation.

The two-year, $250,000 grant will be matched by several Arkansas sources, including the Arkansas State Board of Nursing and the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care. The goal is to raise $250,000 locally, and ARCF has committed to assist in the long-term sustainability of the program by working to secure future, stable sources of funding.

Money raised will support efforts to unify the state’s fragmented geriatrics nursing education system and draw certified nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses working in geriatric long-term care into college nursing degree programs.

In Arkansas, the bulk of the funds will go to the UAMS College of Nursing, which will work in partnership with ARCF, the Arkansas State Board of Nursing, the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, and the Arkansas Health Care Association. Leaders from each partner organization will form an executive committee that is charged with developing the plan for a geriatrics nursing education pathway and to do a pilot test of their plan. 

“Arkansas Community Foundation has a long history of support for aspiring nurses, and the PIN Partners grant now allows us to take a more systematic approach to our state’s nursing shortage,” said ARCF President and CEO Heather Larkin Eason. “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.”

The percentage of people age 65 and older in Arkansas already is higher than the national average (13.9 percent compared to 12.5 percent), and only six other states have higher levels of poverty than Arkansas. With the baby boomers retiring (including retiring nurses), by 2025, 24 percent of Arkansans will be 65 or older.

Nationally, the shortage of registered nurses is expected to reach 29 percent by 2020. Add to that the fact that of the 2.56 million registered nurses in the U.S., fewer than 15,000 (.005 percent) are certified gerontological nurses.
“Nursing homes in Arkansas already are in great need of nurses with baccalaureate degrees and geriatrics expertise. Without significant effort, we risk neglecting a generation of seniors who will need those specially trained nurses,” said UAMS’ Claudia Beverly, Ph.D., R.N., who will oversee the project. “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.”

The Arkansas initiative will target licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants who are working in nursing homes. Through strong health care and education partnerships and strong mentoring support, Beverly said many of these caregivers will achieve higher education degrees. 

“There are people out there who will go back to school and become a registered nurse if they just have a little bit of help,” said Beverly, who also directs the UAMS Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence and the Arkansas Aging Initiative, a program of the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging that includes eight Centers on Aging across Arkansas.

Eason said that as a result of today’s PIN announcement, Arkansas Community Foundation will pursue a philanthropic commitment to geriatrics and long-term care nursing support in Arkansas.

“Simply stated, the funds from PIN will not only bring the project into being, but will also launch a sustainable program for the future,” Eason said.

The 2009 PIN grant cycle marks the fourth year of funding, totaling more than $10 million of investment by the PIN program in local partnerships. In addition, Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future has leveraged more than $8 million in local and regional funding, ensuring the long-term viability of the projects.

“Nurses are the nation’s most direct link to patient safety and quality of care.  We are committed to helping find the most innovative solutions to the nursing shortage so we can protect patients now and over the long term,” said Susan B. Hassmiller, Ph.D., R.N., senior adviser for nursing at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “This unique partnership of the philanthropic community helps identify new approaches that go well beyond what any one foundation could do alone.”

Arkansas Community Foundation has the capacity to engage communities in a thoughtful exploration of critical issues and can help assemble the resources to implement solutions. Arkansas’ statewide community foundation has more than $105 million in assets and has provided more than $70 million in grants since it began in 1976.  Contributions to ARCF, its funds and any of its 26 local affiliate offices are tax deductible.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing the country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves.

Founded in 1997, the Northwest Health Foundation is an independent, charitable foundation committed to advancing, supporting, and promoting the health of the people of Oregon and southwest Washington. Embracing its role as the community’s partner for better health, the Foundation achieves its mission primarily through grantmaking and support for advocacy efforts that influence public policy. See

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a new 540,000-square-foot hospital, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,652 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit or

More information about Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future can be found at