School of Nursing

The School of Nursing will launch a new research center for chronic-illness treatments after receiving a $2.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health in late September.

Researchers at the Center for Trans-Disciplinary Collaborative Research in Self-Management Science will focus on new sustainable treatments for patients facing chronic illnesses such as hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

According to a 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seven out of 10 deaths are caused by chronic diseases, and more than 50 percent of Americans live with one or more chronic diseases.

According to Alexa Stuifbergen, dean of the School of Nursing, about 80 percent of a patient’s medical treatment consists of everyday lifestyle choices. She said feasible interventions must take into consideration external factors that influence patients’ regular decisions on exercise, diet and stress-management.

“There are women with children who are trying to work full time and are managing a chronic condition that can’t add another hour and a half to their day to exercise,” Stuifbergen said. “You have to find a new way to integrate it into their lifestyle.”

Miyong Kim, director of the center, said the center plans to collaborate with community health centers, such as CommUnityCare, to better understand the needs of low-income
communities.

Kim said the new center will create a formal space for researchers of different disciplines — such as education, law, technology and business — to explore treatments tailored to the needs of underserved communities. She said trans-disciplinary treatments can address the external factors influencing patients’ health.

“We have a lot of underserved populations that are dealing with legal issues or low literacy,” Kim said. “It’s a really complex problem, and just one discipline is not going to work.”

As technology continues to affect more and more Americans’ lives, it can also be integrated into patients’ treatment plans, Kim said. She said center researchers will collaborate with app developers to create an app that makes health publications more accessible for patients.

“If people have a choice between reading your patient educational material or playing Angry Birds, people will choose Angry Birds,” Kim said. “Say you are someone who needs information about serving sizes and calories — then we can make that into a game.”

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

The School of Nursing received a two-year $703,000 grant from St. David’s Foundation, the University announced Tuesday.
 
The funding will support the UT School of Nursing Wellness Center in providing care for the uninsured, low-income community of Central Texas. The Wellness Center operates in two locations, the Children’s Wellness Clinic in Del Valle, Texas and the Family Wellness Clinic in East Austin.
 
“We’re delighted that St. David’s Foundation has chosen once again to support the School of Nursing,” said Alexa Stuifbergen, School of Nursing dean. “We’ve had numerous supporters . . . but our most consistent and generous has always been St. David’s Foundation.”
 
Stuifbergen said the center was first started 16 years ago in Del Valle when a local school nurse reached out to the nursing school because of the lack of pediatric care in the area. Since then, University students who study nursing, business, social work and pharmacy have worked with faculty members in serving the community through both clinics.
 
“It’s a great source of direct experience for students,” Stuifbergen said. “It’s a way that UT gives back to the community.”
 
Now the center has recruited more public health nurses on staff to increase outreach programs. It is also adding more specialty programs to help people manage diabetes and asthma.
 
“This is a continuation of a long-standing relationship that we’ve had with the UT School of Nursing,” said Earl Maxwell, CEO of St. David’s Foundation. “The [center] serves low-income people in our community, and that’s the focus of our foundation.”
 
Elizabeth Loika, associate professor of clinical nursing and director of the Family Wellness Center, said the center has become an integral part in the lives of many patients.
 
“This brings up the standard of care to where it needs to be. We’re very grateful,” Loika said.
 
Many patients first came as teenagers and grew up with the center. These patients, especially the geriatric population, have been receiving care for as long as ten years.
 
“We like to be able to provide an extended way of teaching,” Loika said. “We’re doing something that is meaningful.”
 

Editor's Note: The School of Nursing recently posted and later removed controversial signage that contained a list of clothing items students should avoid wearing, such as "short skirts" and "low-cut shirts." The Daily Texan went out on campus to get students' opinions on the signs and the actions taken by the school. You can read the original story about the dress code signs here.

Davis is an associate editor and Seifert is a senior videographer.

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

The School of Nursing took down dress code posters inside its building on Wednesday after receiving criticism online for the signs being targeted toward women.

The sign called for revealing clothing not to be worn inside the building because “it distracts from the learning environment.” The sign cited “midriff-baring shorts,” “short-shorts,” “short skirts,” “low-rise pants,” and “low-cut shirts that reveal cleavage” as types of clothes not to be worn inside the building. 

Before being taken down, the poster was criticized on social media sites and in a post on Jezebel, a women’s interest blog. The School of Nursing later released a statement saying that the sign was a mistake and did not reflect the intent of the school’s dress code policy. 

“We have several dress codes, including one for clinical, building dress codes,” said Gayle Timmerman, associate dean for academic affairs. “Being a professional school, we are portraying we want students to have a professional image,”  

Nursing senior Liana Chau said she has seen similar signs in recent semesters, but she also sees students wearing what they want to class.

“Well, when I first read that sign last year, at first I thought it was kind of unusual that the school would actually release a statement like that because typically when you’re in college, the colleges don’t really enforce what a student would wear,” Chau said. “At the same time ... I understood why they would need to tell the students to dress professionally, because it is a job that’s going to evolve to being in the professional world where you have to dress correctly.”

Chau said when the temperature is hot outside she usually wears shorts and a t-shirt. 

Timmerman said the dress code has been in place for at least five years. 

“It’s in the student handbook, and we don’t have it posted all the time,” Timmerman said. “Occasionally, we’ll put it up as a gentle reminder that we are a professional school and that a professional image in expected.”

Timmerman said she believes people misperceived the intent behind the sign, and the school’s policy is gender neutral. 

“The sign itself didn’t reflect the intent of the policy, and there were several things in it that led people to have a negative response,” Timmerman said. 

Nursing senior Stephanie Astle also said she has seen similar signs like this before, but said the signs were not up for a long period of time. Astle said she has discussed the signs with her friends, but she normally does not wear clothes in violation of the dress code. 

“Most people are in scrubs 95 percent of the time anyways, because that’s what is considered ‘proper dress code’ in many of the courses,” Astle said. 

For the second year in a row, a UT nursing professor received the Research in Minority Health award from the Southern Nursing Research Society. 

In February, the Society announced that Sharon Horner, associate dean for research in the School of Nursing, was granted the award for her asthma research. Horner said her studies are set apart by her inclusion of minorities, which had only been done on a small scale prior to her research.

“Before I started this work, there were two studies reported in the literature that included Mexican-Americans: One was a pilot study with 28 children but only two were Mexican-American,” Horner said in an email. “The second study was a school-based program with 12 of 100 children being Mexican-American. My studies have had at least 50 percent Mexican-Americans and so we are filling an important niche.” 

According to Janet Morrison, nursing graduate student and research associate for Horner’s studies, minorities have been neglected in past health research.

“I believe that minority and underserved populations have been overlooked in the past. The National Institutes of Health has identified these populations as priority research,” Morrison said.

Horner said her research focuses on children and managing the care they receive at home.

“All of my clinical practice has been with children and their parents … What particularly caught my attention were the families who were dealing with chronic health problems,” Horner said. “I was curious about how they managed at home since that is where most care actually takes place.”

Morrison said children’s health is a growing problem in our society.

“The current and future health status of children is a critical problem facing our nation. The roots of poor health are multifactorial and potential solutions that require innovative strategies as well as community, state and federal support,” Morrison said.

According to Horner, her desire to research asthma stemmed from the extensive amount of children that are affected by the chronic illness, as well as its unpredictability. 

“This condition affects about 7 million children… Some children have mild intermittent asthma, sometimes only in one season, while other children have more severe asthma with symptoms nearly every day,” Horner said.

According to Sharon Brown, a nursing professor at the University who won the award last year, UT professors receiving the award two years in a row reflects the quality of research at the School of Nursing.

“I think these awards are a testament to the type of research we tend to do here in the School of Nursing: research that has a community-based focus and has societal benefits,” Brown said.

The University recognized three School of Nursing professors for their induction into the American Academy of Nursing earlier this month.

The newly-inducted fellows included clinical nursing associate professors Marilyn Pattillo and Mary Lou Adams and nursing associate professor Deborah Volker. The induction of these professors brought UT presence in the Academy to 18 professors, said UT spokesman Tim Green.

There are many nurses who distinguish themselves, but to be distinguished by one’s peers is indeed an honor, Pattillo said. Pattillo, a UT alumnus, served for more than 20 years in the Air Force Nurse Corps and is a member of UT’s Emergency Preparedness effort. She developed two disaster preparedness courses for students that have been integrated into the nursing curriculum.

She said she hopes to further global health policy and advocate for disaster preparedness competency for nurses.
“Nursing these days requires visibility, resourcefulness and confidence,” Pattillo said. “Nurses are leaders in advocating for safety of patients and promoting quality of life.”

The academy consists of 1,600 members and works to research and promote global policy advances in health care via specialized committees in the organization, according to its website. Each member can nominate one person to apply to become a fellow.

“Selection for membership in the academy is one of the most prestigious honors in the field of nursing,” said AAN president Catherine L. Gilliss, “Academy Fellows are truly experts. The academy fellowship represents the nation’s top nurse researchers, policy-makers, scholars, executives, educators and practitioners.”

Adams, who also graduated from UT, said colleagues at the School of Nursing encouraged her to apply for a fellowship. Adams previously worked with the Texas Cancer Council to help increase the number of African-American women screened for breast cancer. She said the project encouraged more than 8,000 African-American women to get screened in a five-year period.

Adams said the support she’s received from the School of Nursing and the students has been fantastic. She said she encourages students to find their passion in nursing and work towards making a contribution to their profession.

“I hope to work with the health disparities [committee] to see if I can lend some insight and do work to reduce the disparities we see in health care,” Adams said.

Nursing senior Ashley Reinecke currently has Pattillo as a professor and was enrolled in one of Volker’s classes in spring 2010. Reinecke said she remembers Volker always made herself available after class and in office hours and even wrote her a letter of recommendation to get into nursing school.

Reinecke said Volker, who specializes in the ethics of decisions involving near-death individuals, taught her how to be sensitive communicating with a patient who’s about to die and to make their quality of life as good as possible.

“I’m proud to have them as my teachers,” Reinecke said. “It inspires me to be a good nurse and hopefully be in the academy in the future.”

Dr. Misha Vaughan presents methods for designing internet and mobile health promotion interfaces at the Nursing SchoolÂ’s Summer Colloquium on Friday. The purpose of the discussion was to help individuals working with medical technologies increase their ease of use.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

The School of Nursing is bringing creative minds from the health and communications industries together to develop new ideas for implementing health care using modern technology.

The Center for Health Promotion & Prevention Research hosted a lecture Friday to promote new systems of communication in hospitals and updated ways of providing health care to patients such as integrated computer programs and improved electronic interfaces.

Dr. Misha Vaughan, architect for the computer technology company Oracle and a UT alumni, said developers should aim to provide an engaging user experiences through their electronic interfaces.

“The game is changing,” Vaughan said. “The bar is raised, and expectations of users of technology today because you’re competing with user experiences such as Amazon, Facebook and the iPad. If it’s not as easy to use, seamless and interactive, your user is one click away from finding another option.”

Vaughan said the most important component in designing useful programs is conducting research in the health care field to recognize the types of interruptions professionals and patients experience when using the technology and develop solutions for them.

“It’s really important you consider the real world context and what the challenges someone such as a new mom might face when trying to use the Internet or a mobile device to access health information,” she said. “We also followed health professionals in foreign countries to see what their daily work life was like, and it was only through observation that we learned their specific needs such as how important things like texting can be in countries with a high noise level.”

Vaughan said programs with poorly designed interfaces cause companies to miss out on potential profits as users look for programs that better meet their needs.

“You don’t have to be a billion dollar company to do this,” she said. “You can actually do a lot of this research very cheaply, and focus on engagement and the flow of the information which are most important.”

Nursing professor Lorraine Walker said Vaughan’s research provides an effective structure for finding the most efficient way for health care professionals to communicate important information using new technology.

“This research focuses on next-generation user interface technology,” Walker said. “There is a lot of discussion going on about health promotion through technology such as the Internet, but knowing how to do it well is the next challenge.”

Associate nursing professor Linda Yoder said it is important to keep health communication technologies current so young health professionals are not alienated by older technologies that may be unfamiliar to them.

“When we look at the average nurse on a very busy unit, it’s important that you see this fluid action of nursing work,” Yoder said. “If we do a better job of information interface within that environment, it would provide enrichment especially for the new generation of workers.”

Printed on 07/18/2011 as: Lecture blends health, technology