DNP Student Kouchel Receives Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Fellowship

Congratulations to Dana Kouchel, RN, BSN, a second year BSN-to-DNP student who recently received the nursing Geriatrics Interprofessional Fellowship as part of the Carolina Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (CGWEP).

CGWEP, a three-year, $2.55 million HRSA grant-funded project housed in the UNC School of Medicine’s Center for Aging and Health, is designed to improve health outcomes for rural and underserved geriatric populations across North Carolina.

As a fellow, Kouchel joins an interprofessional team consisting of a practicing North Carolina nurse, dentist and physician who meet all day every other Monday to be trained in the principals of geriatrics and interprofessional geriatrics care, to develop care protocols and to care for patients. The first topic the team is tackling is one of common concern for many geriatric patients—weight loss and proper nutrition.

“I really enjoy learning and working with all members of the interprofessional team. It’s exciting to be developing a program that both improves care for this vulnerable population and facilitates the learning needs of the health care community,” said Kouchel, who is focusing her DNP studies to become an adult/geriatric nurse practitioner. “This program is really a two-way educational street—as the team learns and develops protocols together, we can then pass that education along to fellow caregivers for better patient outcomes.”

The team works with Piedmont Health SeniorCare in Pittsboro, N.C., a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) that helps patients meet their health care needs in the community rather than going to a nursing home or other care facility.

“We’re so privileged to be able to care for older people,” said Kouchel. “It’s important to me that my fellow classmates and other health care providers see and appreciate the value and art of geriatrics care. It may not be glamorous, but we have a duty to help our older patients maintain their independence and dignity as long as possible.”

Among its other goals, CGWEP aims to increase the geriatrics workforce pipeline. Mary H. Palmer, PhD, RN, FAAN, Umphlet Distinguished Professor in Aging is the Interprofessional Education Nursing Team Leader for the project.

“Dana is a perfect fit for this fellowship,” said Palmer. “She brings considerable intelligence, creativity, and devotion to her role on the team and is a wonderful ambassador for the care of the elderly—a champion this population sorely needs.”