Journal of Gerontological Nursing

Feature Article 

A New Role for Advanced Practice Nurses in Canada: Bridging the Gap in Health Services for Rural Older Adults

Kathryn A. Smith Higuchi, RN, PhD; Brad Hagen, RN, PhD; Sharon Brown, BA; Mark Pjil Zieber, RN, MSN

Abstract

This article is a report on the evaluation of a new nursing initiative in rural western Canada—the gerontological advanced practice nurse (GAPN) project. Using a qualitative approach in the initial evaluative phase, the authors determined how the GAPN evolved, functioning primarily in a clinical nurse specialist role, and identified the successes and challenges of the project. The initial findings indicated health benefits to rural older adults. The project’s success was attributed to strong support from key players, and attempts to address perceived gaps in rural health service. Challenges in developing the GAPN role included limited planning time, and lack of a clear definition about the role and responsibilities of the GAPN. The introduction of a GAPN, especially in underserved rural communities, has the potential to provide essential health care services to older adults, and to make major contributions to changing gerontology practice.

Abstract

This article is a report on the evaluation of a new nursing initiative in rural western Canada—the gerontological advanced practice nurse (GAPN) project. Using a qualitative approach in the initial evaluative phase, the authors determined how the GAPN evolved, functioning primarily in a clinical nurse specialist role, and identified the successes and challenges of the project. The initial findings indicated health benefits to rural older adults. The project’s success was attributed to strong support from key players, and attempts to address perceived gaps in rural health service. Challenges in developing the GAPN role included limited planning time, and lack of a clear definition about the role and responsibilities of the GAPN. The introduction of a GAPN, especially in underserved rural communities, has the potential to provide essential health care services to older adults, and to make major contributions to changing gerontology practice.

Authors

Dr. Smith Higuchi is Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Hagen is Associate Professor, Ms. Brown is Research Assistant, and Mr. Zieber is Lecturer, School of Health Sciences, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.

Address correspondence to Kathryn A. Smith Higuchi, RN, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, 451 Smyth Road, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1H 8M5 or e-mail khiguchi@uottawa.ca.

10.3928/00989134-20060701-07

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