Tappahannock – Following months of preparation, planning and training, Riverside Health System's four hospitals earned designations as NICHE (Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders) centers, recognizing Riverside's dedication to quality care for older adults.

Riverside Tappahannock Hospital (RTH) and Riverside Walter Reed Hospital in Gloucester both earned designations in January. They join Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News and Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital on the Eastern Shore, who received their designations in late 2012.

Less than 20 hospitals across the state hold the same designation and Riverside is one of the first in the nation to commit to implementing this transformational program across all its services.

Created in 1994 by New York University College of Nursing, NICHE is the leading nurse driven program designed to help improve the care of older adults. It provides nurses with education and best practice models for responding to the unique needs of older patients.

NICHE provides an "extensive array of resources and tools that guide, support, and educate healthcare professionals and facilities throughout the process of achieving NICHE designation." According to NICHE, designated hospitals have higher patient and family satisfaction overall.

"Ten thousand people a day turn 65," said Riverside's Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer, Terris Kennedy, RN, PhD. We really believe that knowing these best practice, evidence-based protocols, truly gives nurses the ability to care for older adults, not just in acute care settings, but also when older adults are in transition."

"This is especially critical for the Northern Neck region," added  RTH Director of Nursing and Patient Care Services, Wanda Miller, DNP, RN, CENP. "With so many aging baby boomers in our community, we felt it more important than ever to focus on the best practices in care for our elderly patients such as fall prevention, enhanced mobility, pain management, and family involvement in plans of care."

"With this designation, patients and their families can be assured that we understand the special needs of our senior population and have procedures in place to address the healthcare problems that can affect older patients in particular," she added.

While this new recognition is certainly a milestone, it is seen as just the beginning of Riverside's focus on the elderly.

The next step for each hospital is for the leadership to conduct geriatric assessment surveys of its nurses to determine the baseline knowledge of how to care for older adults. Following the survey, each facility will begin the hands on learning and educational portion of the program with the implementation of the Geriatric Resource Nurse Curriculum.

"This program has nurses stepping up to the plate in caring for older adults," Kennedy said. "It shows that Riverside is committed to a high quality of care for older adults, not just in an acute care setting, but across the health system."

Published: February 28, 2013