Elkins, WV – As West Virginia’s population continues to age, Davis Medical Center is preparing more nurses with the particular skills needed to care for the unique needs of elder patients.
NICHE (Nurses Improving Care for Health System Elders) is an international program designed to help hospitals improve the care of older adults. The vision of NICHE is for all patients 65-and-over to be given sensitive and exemplary care. DMC earned its original NICHE designation in 2016.
In 2019 DMC became the first and only hospital in the state to achieve Senior Friendly NICHE designation. Today, DMC continues to maintain one of the highest ratios of NICHE certified nursing staffs in WV.
Over sixty percent of the DMC inpatient population is 65 years or older. One of DMC’s 2021 NICHE initiatives was to certify nurses and staff as Dementia Care Specialists. This was achieved by attending a 6.5 hour dementia conference.
The conference topics included identifying and differentiating between dementias, preventing and reducing difficult behaviors, how to improve communication with cognitively impaired patients, and information on the latest medications and advancements in dementia. 115 nurses and staff received their certifications. New staff in six units will also be required to complete this certification, which will strengthen their skills and knowledge about dementia and improve the health status of the 65 years and older population.
“When seniors are hospitalized it can be a defining moment. The level of care they receive can improve their quality of life or cause complications. We are proud of the senior-friendly processes in place here for medication use, dementia, falls, and discharge planning. DMC’s continuing goal is to provide safe, affordable, and quality care for our seniors, while achieving high patient, family, and staff satisfaction,” said Kim Haher, RN, DMC NICHE Coordinator.
Best practices adopted by nurses at DMC address common issues among the elderly, including:
•Many seniors take medicines prescribed by multiple prescribers and reviewing medication lists is an important part of the geriatric nurses’ role;
• Making sure that seniors admitted to the hospital receive their correct daily medications on schedule even as they receive other tests or treatments in the hospital;
• Paying special attention to nighttime lighting for patients who are ambulatory but have vision loss;
• Establishing an open line of communication with family caregivers and providing them with the information and education they need to care for elderly patients at home;
• Ensuring elderly patients understand and can follow instructions for their care established in their discharge plan.