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University of Iowa News Release


July 26, 2007

UI Nursing Researchers Granted $87,000 For Depression Training

Researchers at the University of Iowa College of Nursing have received an $87,000 grant from the Wellmark Foundation to develop "Depression Training to Promote Nurses as Advocates for Older Adults," a CD-ROM course that will help nurses recognize symptoms of late-life depression and promote evidence-based treatment.

Collaborators on the proposal submission were: principal investigator Kathleen Buckwalter, Ph.D., the Sally Mathis Hartwig Distinguished Professor of Gerontological Nursing and director of the Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence in the UI College of Nursing; Marianne Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing; and Linda Seydel, administrator at the Iowa Geriatric Education Center.

UI colleagues on the project include: Kristin Johnson, associate editor, Iowa Geriatric Education Center; Susan Lenoch, program associate in the Office of Consultation and Research in Medical Education in UI Carver College of Medicine; and Toni Tripp-Reimer, Ph.D., professor and associate dean for research at the UI College of Nursing.

Late-life depression is associated with excess disability, dysfunction, and worsening of related physical health conditions. However, the researchers say that although depression is widely recognized as the most common and treatable of all mental disorders among older adults, it is regularly unrecognized and untreated or under-treated.

A statewide lack of mental health professionals is an ongoing challenge. Buckwalter, Smith and Seydel saw a critical need to enhance the skills of nurses, who may often be the gateway to competent screening, intervention and referral. The training program will use research evidence related to late-life depression, focusing on the identification of symptoms, application of screening tools, implementation of supportive nursing interventions, referral for professional evaluation as needed, and monitoring of patient outcomes.

The program will be delivered via CD-ROM, and will incorporate an interactive "virtual patient" module, digitized video presentations, printable job aides, workplace exercises to simulate application to real clinical practice, and a guide for the staff development coordinator or other workplace facilitator.

Buckwalter and Smith have developed training programs for nursing home personnel for many years, beginning with the award-winning, federally funded "Geriatric Mental Health Training Series" in the 1990s. Depression in older adults is a major health issue, the researchers say, adding that Iowa's aging population underscores the importance of this training.

Iowa ranks sixth in the nation for having the largest proportion of adults age 65 and older, and it is first in the proportion of those who are 85 years and older. It is anticipated that by 2020, Iowa's older population will increase by 39 percent, while the overall population in Iowa will grow by only 3 percent.

The research team has identified as distribution partners the Iowa Foundation for Medical Care, the Iowa Coalition of Mental Health and Aging, and the Iowa Nurses Association, as well as a wide continuum of health care settings in which older adults may be treated -- from acute care to home care.

Although the overarching goal of the depression training program is to improve health outcomes for older adults in Iowa, the research team anticipates a national demand for the program as well. Completion and distribution is expected in 2008.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Nursing, 101 Nursing Building, Iowa City, Iowa 52242

MEDIA CONTACT: Michele Francis, 319-335-8960,