The project’s purpose was to evaluate the impact of an educational series on nurses’ knowledge and competence in caring for older adults with behavioral health needs. The NIH (2022) found that between 65% and 90% of nursing home residents have a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Quality of care in nursing homes became a public issue during the COVID pandemic, and Cortes (2022) identified that one of the biggest issues in nursing homes is lack of knowledge or competence to recognize or treat mental illness, likely due to lack of specialized training in behavioral health. Participants were recruited via an email sent to 1,396 nurses caring for Medicare Advantage members in nursing homes which described the initiative, including completion of three surveys and at least five educational activities. 132 nurses volunteered to participate. The surveys measured self-reported knowledge, competence, and other elements on a one-to-five scale. Following the first survey, participants were offered a choice of eleven on-demand behavioral health NCPD educational activities, with the expectation of completing at least five within a two-month period. The same survey was distributed upon completion of the education and again three months later. Most participants had a master’s/post-master’s degree (79%), doctoral degree (14%), associate degree (5%), and diploma (1%). While 100% of participants completed the first survey, 27% completed all three. The results demonstrated a 24% increase in knowledge, 11% increase in competence, 17% increase in identification of behavioral health needs, 27% increase in non-pharmacological management, and 16% increase in patient/family education between the first and third survey. There was no meaningful change between the second and third. This project demonstrates self-reported improvement in knowledge and competence for caring for older adults with mental illness. Opportunities include repeating this project with a larger sample size and measuring clinical outcomes (e.g., number of psychotropic medications, falls, and hospitalizations). Targeted education can improve the quality of care that APNs provide to older adults with mental illness.
Outcome: Learners will state at least one way education can impact knowledge and competence in nurses caring for older adults with behavioral health needs.
After completing this learning activity, the participant will be able to assess innovations being used by other professionals in the specialty and evaluate the potential of implementing the improvements into practice.