SIGN Vol 19, Issue 5 Sept/Oct 2012

President's Message
Baltimore-Bound for a National Gerontological Nursing Week Celebration


It is an honor to recognize and celebrate the nation’s gerontological nurses during National Gerontological Nursing Week October 1 – 8, 2012.  On behalf of NGNA’s Board of Directors and national office staff, I heartily express appreciation for your passion and commitment to excellence, and the difference you make in the lives of older adults and their family caregivers.    I do hope you can join me at NGNA’s celebration during our 27th Annual Convention in Baltimore October 4 – 6, 2012.  

I encourage all of you to remember your story of becoming a gerontological nurse.  Early in my career on a med-surg hospital unit, I accidentally discovered my passion for older adults.    I vividly recall scanning a shift patient assignment and having my heart light up when I saw their dates of birth were over 70.  I had an innate burning desire to deliver excellent care to older patients and their family caregivers.  Too many times to count I had patients, family members or others on the health care team tell me how different my nursing care delivery was from other nursing colleagues on my unit.  This was what prompted me to obtain specialty certification as a gerontological nurse.    

How do others recognize you as a gerontological nurse?  Is it your passion, expert knowledge, or dogged determination to make things better for the elders to whom you provide care?  The nation’s gerontological nurses are positioned to influence current and future health care delivery to older adults across this country. NGNA’s voice is strengthened as we join with the 7 gerontological-focused organizations in the Coalition of Geriatric Nursing Organizations to influence policy and practice.  With the Affordable Care Act transforming health care delivery, gerontological nurses are an integral part of the solution to re-invent a system of care that needs to change.
Thank you for all you do to improve the quality of nursing care delivered to older adults.  Don’t ever stop….we need you now more than ever.   Happy Gerontological Nursing Week!

Best Regards, 
 Make Your Travel Plans – Convention is Approaching!

Submitted by Jane Hannah Herin, MSHS, BSN, RNBC, PHH, CDE, CHES, FNGNA, Co-Chair, Convention Planning Committee

This year’s NGNA Convention, Gerontological Nursing Care: A Safe Harbor, will take place at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland, October 4-6 2012. If five or more people from the same institution register together, they may deduct $40 from each full registration fee in the group. We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity. 
There is so much to do and see during Convention. You will have the opportunity to celebrate NGNA, learn from others and expand your knowledge, network, and become inspired as you share ideas with fellow colleagues and renew old friendships and make new ones.    
There are several pre-Convention workshops, which you must sign up for when registering for Convention. They include a Gerontological nursing certification class (starting Wednesday, October 3rd), a full day medication management program on Thursday, October 4th and palliative care and transitional care sessions on Thursday afternoon. NGNA is applying for PharmD CE credit hours for the medication management session.
There will be three visits to different and exemplary geriatric facilities in the area.  Registration for these will take place on site, and they are available on a limited first come first serve basis. The Premium Crab Feast, held on Friday evening, will give you an opportunity for a night to remember, full of networking and fun. If you can’t make this activity, there will be a chance to join others for “Dinner for Eight” at your choice of several local restaurants.
The keynote speaker for the opening session will be Barbara Resnick, PhD, RN, CRNP, FAAN, FAANP, from the University of Maryland School of Nursing. This session will be followed by a welcome reception with local Maryland cuisine.  You will also have your first chance to look at all 38 posters that were selected for submission.  The reception is being hosted by several area hospitals, schools of nursing and the local NGNA chapter. Additionally, exhibitors with new products and information will be available.
As mentioned in previous SIGN articles, the educational sessions will feature many dynamic speakers who will bring important and timely information on a variety of topics.  The 16 general and 13 research concurrent sessions will give you an opportunity to choose from any track. 
The consumer session, always a hit, will feature two sisters who are actors and playwrights. We look forward to having some fun during this session!
The closing speaker will be Lois Marshall, PhD, RN, a renowned education consultant and author of Take Charge of your Nursing Career. Her presentation will send off the participants on a positive note. She will explore various career opportunities and offer affirmative encouragement.  Be sure and get the signed copy of her book at Friday’s Book Signing Session - it is a great read. 
Remember to pre arrange a visit with your congressional representative in Washington.  Here are a couple of easy steps to do so. These tips are courtesy of NGNA member Colleen Steinhauser of Nebraska.
  • Call your Representative and/or Senators’ offices.  For contact information, visit, or You can also call the US Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and ask for the member by name. 
  • When you reach the office, explain that you are a constituent who will be in the area, and that you would like to schedule a short meeting. Please note that members of Congress are most likely available Monday – Thursday. Local transportation is available from Baltimore to Washington, DC. 
There is plenty to see and do in the Baltimore/Washington, DC area...bring your family and call it a vacation, or just come as you are. The members of the Convention Planning Committee are looking forward to seeing you soon.

Celebrate National Gerontological Nurses Week: September 30 – October 6, 2012

During the week of September 30 – October 6, 2012, the National Gerontological Nursing Association (NGNA) is celebrating National Gerontological Nurses Week, which coincides with the dates of NGNA’s Annual Convention, which will be held this year at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland.

The purpose of the weeklong celebration is to raise awareness about the growing need for gerontological nurses and the need for increased training and educational opportunities that will equip all nurses to meet the psychological, medical and social needs of older adults.

Click here to access a media kit for this upcoming event, which includes a sample press release, news article, and letter to the editor – perfect to send to your local newspaper or other publication. You’ll also find tips to effectively spread the word to local government officials!

Chapter Resource Committee Corner

Submitted by Chapter Resource Committee Co-Chairs Charlotte L Radu, BSN RN BC, and Donald Dissinger,

Hope everyone has had a wonderful and safe summer. We are looking forward to a fun and successful Convention in Baltimore.

As I contemplated this month’s SIGN article after speaking with friends who will be coming to Convention in October, a few thoughts came to mind:

Over the years that I have chaired or co-chaired the Chapter Resource Committee (CRC), we have had many new chapters join us, and made many new friends along the way. However, several of these chapters have disbanded, and some are struggling to stay afloat. 

One of the major reasons why local chapters are formed is the excitement, enthusiasm and knowledge that we gain each year at the Annual Convention. We want to share that knowledge and enthusiasm with others who were not able to join us at Convention. A local chapter provides us with that place to share, as well as to give support, education and camaraderie at a local level.  Whether we begin with a small or large group, we all share a love of Gerontology and the desire to share that love with others.

Over the years, that love does not change, but our commitments do. Whether it is family, work or a thousand other obligations, there are many other parts of our lives that take over and block some of the enthusiasm. With this in mind, we want to let you know the members of the committee are here - not only to help you start your chapter, but to listen and offer help along the way. No chapter is alone in its efforts to succeed. 

The committee is made up of people from long-standing chapters, as well as new or newly formed chapters. We’ve been in your shoes - we are aware of what makes a chapter succeed or falter. No one wants to lose an “Old Friend” (no pun intended), but with every lost or struggling chapter, we all do.

Over the years the CRC has not only worked to make it easier for a chapter to start, we’ve also developed a way for a chapter to go dormant and revitalize.  During this time the chapter can have time to regroup, revisit, and grow to become even stronger. You never know - there may be others out there who are able to pick up the torch and keep the chapter together. 

The members of the CRC are here for all NGNA members, not just those  forming chapters. We are always looking for input on how to make the formation process seamless, and would love to hear what has kept your chapter together to help others. Please feel free to contact us at the information below. New members on a committee bring new ideas for all.  

See you in October! 

LTC SIG Update

Submitted by Shari Terry, RN, BSN-BC, NHA, MHA-L

The LTC SIG (Long Term Care Special Interest Group) was introduced at the 26th Annual NGNA Convention as a result of an interest in LTC, which was identified on the NGNA Needs Assessment Survey.  It was combined with the geriatric nurse leadership academy that resulted from a matching grant from the Robert Wood Johnson, Partners Investing in Nursing project, to sustain and grow nurses certified in gerontology.

The mission and goals were developed in a collaborative format. Mary Nagy, Kim Bergen-Jackson, and Pam Seale spearheaded this subcommittee.

The mission of the LTC-SIG is to promote and support the development of gerontological nursing experts and improve the quality of long term care provided to older adults.

The goals to help us meet our mission are:

1.    The LTC SIG will provide opportunities for networking and communication with Gerontological nurses who have an interest in long term care.
  • Listserv provides opportunities for networking and communication with other gerontological nurses.
  • Monthly phone meetings, which alternate between Fridays mornings and Monday afternoons, to give members flexibility to participate.
  • Encouragement of others, such as Directors of Nursing, by current NGNA participants, to participate in the telephone meetings.
  • Watch for information about the LTC SIG web page on the NGNA Web site!
2.      The LTC SIG will encourage advocacy initiatives geared toward the healthcare professions, academia and the community.
  • NGNA is working on adding a prep course for Certification in Gerontology.
  • Future plans include linking up to NICHE resources and continuing to advocate for Advanced   nursing gerontology certification.  
The next conference call will take place on Monday, September 10th at 4:00 pm EST. Feel free to participate in this call!

Join us for the committee meeting at the NGNA convention Oct. 5th from 5:00 pm -6:00 pm in Baltimore.

For more information, please contact Co-Chairs Shari Terry, RN, BSN-BC, NHA, MHA-L, at, or Melodee Harris, PhD, APN, GNP-BC at 

Members in the News

Several NGNA members served as authors in the recent National League for Nursing's journal: The Research Journal of the National League for Nursing, Nursing Education Perspectives, May/June 2012.

Kudos go to the following members who participated in the development of this journal:

Barbara Heise
Barbara M. Raudonis
Janet McLean
Valerie C. Sauda

On behalf of NGNA, we appreciate your efforts!

Call for Submissions – SIGN Newsletter

NGNA’s Annual Convention, educational offerings and many other opportunities are quickly approaching. What is the best way to spread the word to your fellow NGNA members?

Advertise it in SIGN! Events, education, industry news – it’s all in one place, easily accessible to all NGNA members.
Submit your news by clicking here to access the online form.

The deadline for submissions for the November/December issue is Friday, October 19. Don’t miss this opportunity to reach out to the NGNA membership!

Writing Abstracts and Creating Posters: Easier than It Sounds

Submitted by Sharon Stahl Wexler, PhD, RN, GCNS-BC, FNGNA

Did you give the email announcing the call for abstracts a second glance? Did you think to yourself: “Gee, I really should do that…” or “My project really would make a great poster”?  If you were thinking any of these thoughts, did you follow through and submit an abstract?  If you did not submit an abstract, why did you choose not to do so? Did you walk around the poster session at last year’s convention thinking: “I should have done this…I will do this next year?"

The most common reason for not submitting an abstract is the fear of failure, or simply not knowing where to start.  The following brief article offers some practical tips on writing an abstract and creating a poster.  Hopefully, the research committee and the EBP committee will be overwhelmed with abstracts next year.

The first step is to examine the call for abstracts.  You must read it carefully, noting a few key areas:

1.       What types of abstracts are being requested?  Is the request for completed research, or is research in progress acceptable?  Is it asking for research projects only, or is an EBP project or PI project appropriate?  Is the call for student research?  It is important to make sure that your study/project meets the criteria.  This can save a lot of unnecessary work and disappointment.

2.       Do you have a project/study in progress, near completion, or completed?  It is important to have completed some work on the project prior to submitting an abstract. Sometimes, in your excitement to share ideas with colleagues, you can “jump the gun” and write an abstract before the project/study is up and running or complete.  This can make things very difficult if the abstract should get accepted.

3.       Carefully read the criteria for writing the abstract, and follow the instructions.  If the organization is requesting an online submission process (as NGNA does), you must use that process.  Writing an abstract and submitting as an email will not be acceptable.  If there is a word and/or character limit, you must follow that guideline.  If there are certain sections that must be addressed, please be sure to do so.  It is common that the review process for the abstract follows the same formatting as your submission.  If you do not address a particular section, you will probably lose points.

4.       Examine the criteria for abstract selection.  In most cases, these criteria are stated clearly in the body of the call for abstracts.  For example, the criteria for abstract selection for NGNA 2012 Convention were:
  • Originality and importance of the topic for Gerontological nursing
  • Appeal to NGNA members
  • Clarity of the proposal
  • Quality of content addressing criteria for the type of presentation
  • Application of the topic to a variety of settings
  • Writing clarity, grammar, spelling, and punctuation
5.       Start out by writing a rough draft.  Put all thoughts on paper (or on the computer screen) and then begin to format it to meet the requirements of the submission.  I find it easier to cut out words or sections than to add in later.

6.       Ask a colleague, preferably one not involved with the study/project, to read the abstract with a critical eye.  It is important to not use abbreviations or jargon that is unique to your organization, area of practice or geographical location.  Ask another colleague who is a good writer to proofread the submission draft, checking for punctuation and grammar.

7.       Pay attention to submission dates and times.  In most cases, when the submission deadline passes, your opportunity has passed as well.  It is also important to pay attention to the date of when you will be notified whether or not the abstract has been accepted. 

8.       If your abstract does not get accepted, it is disappointing. However, the rejection could be for many different reasons.  Many organizations will offer assistance in working with and mentoring abstract authors. The NGNA research committee offers this service.

You submit the abstract, and hopefully will receive notification that it has been selected.  You celebrate your achievement, and then begin to think: “Now what? I do not know how to do a poster, what did I get myself into?”  The following tips will help you through the process of creating and presenting a poster.

1.       A poster is a visual communication tool.  The goal of a poster is to communicate the main points of your work to as many colleagues as possible.  Another way of looking at it is that a poster is a journal article in a graphic format. It communicates key findings in an abbreviated manner. Make it attractive and eye catching to engage as many colleagues as possible.

2.       The poster needs to be attractive enough to catch the attention of attendees at the poster session, so that they stop and take a second look.  It also needs to concisely communicate the key points of the study/project.

3.       The poster session is an excellent opportunity for networking.  Be familiar with your study/project and be ready to network and talk about your work to the many colleagues who will pass by. If you agree to present your poster, you are agreeing to be present for the entire poster session, next to your poster.

4.       The first step in poster creation is to review the guidelines.  Most guidelines will specify the size of the poster, and whether it will be hung on a cork board or standing on a table.  These details are critically important to consider when designing and printing your poster.

5.       Review your budget for poster creation.  If your organization has agreed to pay for the poster, check to see if there are limitations on the cost or if there is a particular vendor that you must use.  If not receiving reimbursement, develop a budget for the poster.  You can create the poster on a computer using multiple PowerPoint slides, or it can be commercially printed from one large PowerPoint slide.  The decision of whether or not to have a “homemade” poster versus a commercially printed poster is yours alone, however, most poster sessions at major conferences are comprised mainly of commercially printed posters. 

If you have a limited budget, there are a number of online businesses that print posters for moderate costs.

6.       Create a schedule.  It is important to find out how long it takes to print the poster, and whether or not you have to submit a copy of the completed poster by a specific date. NGNA does not require a completed copy of the poster be sent prior to convention, so you have up until convention to create your poster.  A schedule is particularly important if are working with a colleague or a group of colleagues.

7.       Begin designing the poster.  It is helpful to take a piece of blank paper and place the different (and often required) section headers on the paper.  The next step is to decide what information goes under what section.

8.       It is important to understand that the poster is an overview of your study/project.  It isn’t necessary to put every detail of your study/project on the poster.  A person viewing it should be able to understand the main findings of your study in three-five minutes and review the whole poster in less than ten minutes. 

9.       It is customary to use a column format with material grouped into units.  The units are similar to the sections often seen in journal articles.  Often, the call for abstracts will identify what areas to address (NGNA call for abstracts provides subject headings).  If the specific subject headings are not included, common ones include:  introduction, methods, subjects, results, conclusions, implications, and references.  It is important to make sure that there is a logical flow of material in the poster.  It should be “self-explanatory”, in that the reader can logically figure out how to progress through reading of the poster.

10.   It is important to make sure the poster is readable.  The following are helpful guidelines:
Title: should be readable from about 25 feet away.  A 72-point font is usually sufficient to achieve this.
Body of poster: should have text that is readable from about 4-6 feet away. A 24-point font is usually sufficient to achieve this.
Font: should only have one-two different fonts; more than that decreases readability. Commonly used fonts are Times New Roman and Arial. In this case, simple is usually best.
Colors: A simple color scheme is usually best, and will not distract from the message.

11.   Some organizations/conferences provide a template for posters.  If a template is provided, use it.  NGNA does not provide a specific template.  If a template is not provided, create your poster using a PowerPoint slide.  Each element (title, purpose, etc.) can be inserted as a text box.  You can “zoom” in and out as you insert text.  There are a number of internet sites that print posters that will provide you with PowerPoint templates, in which you can simply insert your own text, tables, and pictures.

Creating a poster can be a lot of fun.  It is very rewarding to see your study/project “come to life” on a poster.  It is also very productive to participate in the poster session at Convention.  I encourage you to be adventurous and consider submitting a poster for next year’s Convention.  If submitting a research abstract, members of the research committee have volunteered their assistance for those who may need it. Finally, here are some valuable links that may help you to plan your poster, from start to finish!


Chapter News

President Amy Cotton Speaks at Southwest Texas Chapter

Submitted by Susan Carlson, MSN, APRN, ACNS-BC, GNP-BC, FNGNA

The Southwest Texas Chapter hosted a reception for NGNA President Amy Cotton at the historic La Fonda on Main Restaurant. This welcome reception took place on April 18, 2012, which was the evening before Fiesta, an annual San Antonio tradition.

During this reception, Amy met with fellow NGNA members and local chapter leaders, prior to presenting an educational program titled Customizing Diabetes Care for Older Adults – Evidence Guiding Nursing Practice. Welcome and introductions were provided by Southwest Texas NGNA Chapter President Mary Mather and NGNA Immediate Past President Susan Carlson. A financial update was given by Pat Huff, Treasurer of the Southwest Texas chapter.

Amy and Susan also served as invited speakers at the 2nd Annual Building Partnerships for Geriatric Care Conference, held on April 19-20 at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio.

Welcome to the Newest NGNA Local Chapter: Western Pennsylvania

Please join us as we welcome the newest local chapter to the NGNA family. The Western Pennsylvania Chapter has recently been successfully chartered, and we are delighted to include this local chapter as an important part of NGNA.

Officers of this chapter include:
President: Betty Robison, MSN, RN-BC
Vice-President: Kathy Guentner, PhD, RN, CNE
Secretary: Denise Wolbert, BSN, RN
Treasurer: Mary Shields, BSN, RN-BC

We look forward to officially welcoming the newest chapter at this year’s Convention in October!

Public Service Message: Launch of NCOA’s Flu + You Campaign


Flu + You Campaign Raises Awareness about the Seriousness of Influenza, Need for Prevention, and Vaccine Options for Adults 65 and Older
  • The immune system weakens with age leaving older adults more vulnerable to severe disease when they get sick, including influenza, making vaccination critical for this age group.
  • Influenza vaccination is the best way to help protect against this potentially deadly disease.
  • Adults 65 and older are urged to talk to their health care providers about their flu vaccine options – the traditional flu shot, as well as a higher dose vaccine designed to help address the age-related decline of the immune system.
Washington, D.C. (August 21, 2012) /PRNewswire/ — With the flu season fast approaching, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) influenza immunization recommendations and urges older adults to receive an annual influenza vaccination.

Through a new national Flu + You campaign, NCOA is working to improve vaccination rates among this age group because adults 65 and older are particularly vulnerable to the flu and its complications. The objective of Flu + You is to inform older adults about the serious threat influenza poses, the importance of annual immunization, and the available vaccine options covered by Medicare for people over 65. NCOA’s Flu + You campaign is made possible through a collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur.

“Each year in the U.S. about nine out of 10 flu-related deaths and more than six out of 10 flu-related hospitalizations occur in adults 65 and older,” said Richard Birkel, PhD, MPA, acting senior vice president of Healthy Aging and director of NCOA’s Self-Management Alliance. “For this reason NCOA wants to help protect older adults from influenza and ensure that people in this age group and those who care for them fully understand the importance of annual immunization and the vaccine options available to them. Through the Flu + You program, we want to help older adults live a better, healthier life.”

The body’s immune system and its ability to fight illness decrease with age, leaving even healthy older adults at greater risk for influenza and its complications. Leading health experts recommend annual vaccination for everyone 6 months and older, but it is especially crucial for older adults to get vaccinated.

“Vaccination is the best protection against influenza and can help prevent influenza-related complications, which can be particularly serious for older adults,” said Dr. Howard K. Koh, assistant secretary for health, United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “I urge everyone 65 and older to learn about influenza and to talk to their health care providers about vaccination.”

“People 65 years and older have some of the highest rates of hospitalization and death as a result of influenza infection,” according to Dr. Carolyn Bridges, associate director for adult immunizations, CDC. “Lagging influenza vaccination rates among minorities in this age group are of particular concern and we are constantly working to improve flu vaccination within these populations.”

The age-related decline of the immune system also affects the body’s response to vaccination. Recent studies have shown that the traditional flu vaccine might not work as well for people 65 years of age and older because the weakened immune system produces fewer antibodies following vaccination to help protect against infection. Antibodies are the soldiers of the immune system helping to respond and protect against infection when exposed to the virus.

For this reason, adults 65 and older have two vaccine options available to them – the traditional flu shot, as well as a higher dose flu shot. The higher dose vaccine addresses the weakening immune response by triggering the body to produce more antibodies against the flu virus than would be produced by the traditional flu shot.

Both the traditional and higher dose flu shot options are among the vaccines recommended by the CDC for adults 65 years of age and older and are covered by Medicare Part B with no copay.

“Because older adults are at such increased risk, they should make sure they are vaccinated before influenza viruses start causing illness in their communities, ideally getting vaccinated in the late summer or fall months,” said Dr. Bridges. “Getting vaccinated not only helps protect yourself, but also helps prevent the spread of flu to loved ones and others who are at high risk, such as infants and young children, pregnant women, and anyone with a chronic health condition, such as heart disease and diabetes.”

As part of the Flu + You initiative, Dr. Bridges and Dr. Birkel will be participating in interviews with media across the nation to help spread these important public health messages and educate older adults, their caregivers, and family members about the serious threat of influenza and the importance of vaccination.

The Flu + You campaign also will be conducting regional programming in Arizona, Florida, and Pennsylvania – all states with large populations of older adults – to reach local residents with information about the dangers of influenza and vaccine options for adults 65 and older.
In addition, older adults and those who care for them can visit the comprehensive campaign website, to find additional information and download educational materials.


Flu + You
NCOA, with the support of Sanofi Pasteur, has developed educational materials designed to reach older adults, caregivers, and health care providers with critical information regarding influenza and immunization options.

NCOA will conduct extended regional programming for the Flu + You campaign in the states of Arizona, Florida, and Pennsylvania to reach older adults and their caregivers.

For more information regarding regional training and on Flu + You, visit

About NCOA
The National Council on Aging is a nonprofit service and advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC. NCOA is a national voice for millions of older adults – especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged – and the community organizations that serve them. It brings together nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government to develop creative solutions that improve the lives of all older adults. NCOA works with thousands of organizations across the country to help seniors find jobs and benefits, improve their health, live independently, and remain active in their communities. For more information, please visit: | |