FHSU College of Health and Life Sciences establishes new interdisciplinary program

HAYS, KS -- By 2030, a quarter of the U.S. population will be 65 or older, according to the second edition of the textbook Delivering Health Care to America: A Systems Approach.

To better prepare students to work with the elderly population and meet the needs of the changing demographics, Fort Hays State University has created a new program in gerontology.

The newest addition to the FHSU gerontology major is the nursing home administrator program. Successful completion allows students to sit for the state and national exams to be licensed as nursing home administrators. The program is taught online through the FHSU Virtual College, using a team of interdisciplinary faculty.

"Nursing home administrator programs currently are limited at the state and national level and I believe this program is a jump start to a career," said Dr. Liane Connelly, associate professor of nursing at FHSU and Coordinator of Gerontology. "Our population is aging and if anyone looks to the future you are going to see older people and those older people will be in need of a variety of services."

FHSU is the first program in Kansas to provide the nursing home administrator program through distance learning technology.

Four years ago, FHSU completed a feasibility study that found a need for educational information on older adults. FHSU developed four programs, including a 21-credit-hour minor in gerontology and a 12-credit-hour graduate certificate program in gerontology.

FHSU has also teamed up with the bachelor of general studies and master of liberal studies programs through the Virtual College to offer an emphasis in gerontology.

Now, FHSU has developed the fifth gerontology program, nursing home administration.

Gerontology is a type of interdisciplinary program. Three of the four colleges on the FHSU campus and eight departments are involved with the gerontology program in some fashion.

"I would emphasize that the nursing home administrator program is an interdisciplinary program and is open to anyone who has an interest in aging," said Connelly. "Sometimes people think that only nurses would be interested in gerontology, which couldn't be farther from the truth."

The new program includes nine credit hours that can be taken at the undergraduate or graduate level. Students must have a bachelor's degree or be completing a bachelor's degree before they are able to obtain a nursing home administrator license.

"I believe what is unique about this program is the use of the Internet to have students participate in online discussions with peers, assigned readings, and interact with real life nursing home administrators," said Connelly. "This program allows students to do something that they really haven't had the chance to do in the past."

To enroll in the Nursing Home Administrator program students must apply first to Connelly, at (785) 628-5553 or by e-mail at lconnell@fhsu.edu. More information on the gerontology programs offered at FHSU is available on the Web site at www.fhsu.edu/gerontology.

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