Baker works tirelessly to improve care for the elderly

natalie baker streamAssistant Professor Natalie Baker, DNP, a three-time UAB School of Nursing alumna, has provided primary care to nursing home patients since the early 1990s.

Assistant Professor Natalie Baker, DNP, has a lot of irons in the fire — all of which further her passion to raise awareness of the need for more primary-care providers and better care for older adult populations.

About 80 percent of older adults need care for chronic conditions like hypertension, arthritis and heart disease, and one in five Americans will be eligible for Medicare by 2030, according to the American Geriatrics Society. Older adults account for 26 percent of all office visits, 35 percent of all hospital stays, 34 percent of all prescriptions and 90 percent of all nursing home use.

In 2013, there were approximately 7,500 certified geriatricians in the United States. If 30 percent of all adults ages 65 and older need care and each certified geriatrician can care for a patient panel of 700 older adults, the nation would need 17,000 more caregivers to compensate for the need.

This is where Baker believes nurse practitioners can help.

Filling in the holes

Baker, who earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from UAB School of Nursing before taking a full-time faculty position in 2011, has provided primary care to nursing home patients since the early 1990s.

She is on an expert panel for the National Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence to identify and develop nurse educator competencies. After months of research, deliberation and editions, the panel is finalizing seven new competencies for all nursing faculty responsible for teaching gerontological content and hopes to begin disseminating them to all schools of nursing by late spring.

“Sometimes there are holes in teaching assignments, and we hope that with these established national competencies, more schools will begin to understand that [geriatric patients] are a very different patient population with specific needs,” Baker said.

Baker’s work to update nursing education standards is only one facet of her scholarship and service. She is vice president for the Alabama Board of Nursing and a member of the Joint Committee of the ABN and the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners. She also is on the board of directors for the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA).

For her efforts Baker received the 2016 Nurse Practitioner Advocate State Award for Excellence from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners to commend her work to increase awareness and acceptance of nurse practitioners and promote patient access to geriatric care.

From the U.S. to UAB

But her greatest reward is teaching, she said. At UAB, she teaches in the adult/gerontology nurse practitioner program, instructing masters-level students who want to become primary-care providers. She also teaches health policy to DNP students, which she hopes will encourage them to become public policy advocates.

“Translating national problems into teaching moments helps students to really understand that there is a huge gap in care and that older patients are an underserved population.”
Her work at UAB and with the various service organizations, she said, gives her a unique perspective on her field.

“In some ways, they all complement each other,” she said. “By being able to interact with colleagues on a national basis, I often become aware of new treatment guidelines for some of the more complex treatment areas, like diabetes management or falls in nursing homes, before I see it in the literature, and in return, I can get that information to my students more quickly.

“Plus, I’m able to take information and trends that we face in Alabama and translate that to a national level in my work with GAPNA; then I can translate those national concerns into my teaching with the students I’m actually training to go out and provide care to this vulnerable population,” she said

Most important, Baker said, her end goal is to encourage her students to pursue careers in geriatric care, because the lack of primary-care providers in nursing homes is a national concern.

“Translating national problems into teaching moments helps students to really understand that there is a huge gap in care and that older patients are an underserved population; hopefully then they decide to seek careers in that field.”

 

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