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Gerontol Geriatr Educ. 2011;32(1):38-53. doi: 10.1080/02701960.2011.550214.

Geriatric-focused educational offerings in the Department of Veterans Affairs from 1999 to 2009.

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Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, Puget Sound VA Medical Center, Seattle, Washington 98108, USA.


The scope of geriatrics-related educational offerings in large health care systems, in either the target audiences or topics covered, has not previously been analyzed or reported in the professional literature. The authors reviewed the geriatrics-related educational sessions that were provided between 1999 and 2009 by the Geriatrics Research, Education, and Clinical Centers (GRECCs) and the Employee Education System (EES) of the United States' largest integrated health care system, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Using records of attendance and content at local training events and regional and national conferences, the authors estimated the number of attendees in different health disciplines and the number and types of lectures. During the past 11 years, GRECCs and EES provided geriatric-related educational sessions to about one third of a million attendees, most of them nurses and physicians, in about 15,000 lectures. About three-fourths of the educational events occurred through local, rather than regional or national, events. Lectures covered a wide variety of topics, with a particular emphasis on dementia and other mental health topics. A comparison of the number of potential learners in VHA with the number of geriatric-related educational presentations over this time period yields an average of one offering per VHA provider every 3 years; most providers likely never received any. Since 1999 the GRECCs have been the dominant source for geriatrics-related education for VHA health professionals, but given that about one half of VHA patients are older than age 65, there is still a large unmet need to provide geriatric education to VHA providers. Examination of the GRECC resources that have been put to use in the past to develop and deliver the face-to-face education experiences described sheds light on the magnitude of resources that might be required to address remaining unmet need in the future, and supports the prediction that there will need to be increasing reliance on distance learning and other alternatives to face-to-face educational modalities.

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