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UAB Receives Highest Designation for Care of Older Adults

UAB Hospital has achieved "Exemplar" status for its Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE) program. NICHE is the premier designation indicating a hospital's commitment to excellence in the care of patients 65 years and older, and the "Exemplar" status is the highest of four possible program levels.

"The NICHE designation and ‘Exemplar' status signal our commitment to provide patient-centered care for older adults," says UAB Hospital's Chief Nursing Officer Terri Poe. "Through our participation in the NICHE program, we are able to offer evidence-based, interdisciplinary approaches that promote better outcomes, positive experiences, and improved care for our largest population of patients."

NICHE at UAB
UAB became a NICHE site in 2009 with the goal improving the care of elder patients by educating healthcare providers and hard-wiring evidence-based geriatric practices. This goal is achieved through our Geriatric Scholar Program – now known as the Inter-professional Geriatric Scholars Program. The initial scholar's class began in 2009 with 17 nurses; the current class has 43 participants from multiple disciplines, which include (but are not limited to) nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work, case management, pharmacy, pastoral care, and dietary. Because of the expansion of the program, there are currently 165 scholars in approximately 40 practice areas throughout UAB Medicine.

UAB has also started the Geriatric Scholar Patient Support Program to provide education to our non-licensed staff on care strategies that they can implement to prevent functional and cognitive decline in hospitalized patients. The inaugural class started this October and includes unit secretaries, patient care technicians, and a neurovascular lab technician.

Sharing the Knowledge
A requirement of both programs is that the scholars take the information they receive and share it with others. They have made a great impact on spreading geriatric concepts throughout the organization, and the inaugural class alone reached more than 600 employees by educating others on what they have learned and implementing evidence-based projects in year two of the program. These projects – which include the addition of functional and cognitive screens to the electronic medical record that are now completed on every geriatric patient that is admitted to UAB, pressure ulcer prevention, safe mobility programs, and pictograms – have played an integral part in preparing UAB Medicine for the Virtual ACE initiative that began this year. This initiative will teach frontline staff how to implement geriatric plans of care to prevent functional decline and delirium in older adults during hospitalization.