Patient Care

Research Spotlight: Translational Research Gauges Impact of Nurse Staffing, Education and Teamwork on Outcomes

May 2011Diana Austin

The ultimate aim of health sciences research is to benefit patients. But when basic science doesn’t make the transition from bench to bedside, that potential is lost. Nurse-scientists, with their long tradition of multidisciplinary work, are uniquely positioned to ensure that important research makes the leap from laboratory to patient. This Research Spotlight describes the work of nine UCSF School of Nursing faculty members who are helping to bridge the gap.

Mary Blegen, RN, PhD, is the principal investigator of a study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that is looking at the validity of the National Quality Forum indicators and the relationship between nurse staffing and patient outcomes. This study also reexamines the relationship between nurse education and patient outcomes, and describes the differences in patient outcomes between Magnet and non-Magnet hospitals.

Nancy Donaldson, RN, DNSc, is co-principal investigator of the Collaborative Alliance for Nursing Outcomes, a large, ongoing, multisite, nursing-sensitive benchmarking, research and development effort that works with hospitals to compare nurse staffing, processes of care and outcomes data to understand how to improve patient care quality and effectiveness. Donaldson also leads the School of Nursing’s regional Evidence-Based Practice Fellows Role Development Education Program. Since the program’s inception in 2005, 125 nurses from seven regional hospitals have completed the six-month training and successfully conducted small tests of changes that translate new knowledge into improved patient care.

Audrey Lyndon, RN, PhD, is conducting qualitative research into the role of communication, assertion and teamwork in maintaining patient safety in inpatient maternity care. A current project involves identifying barriers to effective communication and teamwork in community hospital maternity settings.

Advancing Heart Care

Barbara Drew, RN, PhD, is co-principal investigator of Home ECG Monitoring to Detect Allograft Rejection Following Heart Transplantation. The project aims to identify changes in heart transplant patient electrocardiograms (ECGs) that indicate donor organ rejection, a major cause of death in the first year following transplant surgery. Patients record their ECGs daily using a simple home device, combined with novel mobile phone technology that automatically sends their ECGs to researchers. The hypothesis is that detecting a marker of heart transplant rejection could allow for more timely initiation of medical therapy and reduce mortality from acute rejection.

Jill Howie-Esquivel, RN, PhD, was principal investigator of the Yoga in Heart Failure pilot study, which examined the effects of a modified yoga program in patients with stable heart failure. It is the first such study to examine yoga’s effect on physical function, symptoms and heart rate variability – an indicator of cardiac health – among heart failure patients, who are often unable to tolerate regular exercise. The study found that yoga was not only safe for these patients, but also improved their physical function.

Enhancing the Partnership Between Parents and Clinicians

Linda Franck, RN, PhD, in her current research examines the information needs of parents when their children are in pain, and suggests innovative strategies for enhancing the partnership between parents and professionals to ensure that children receive optimal pain care and sustain optimal quality of life.

Averting Delirium in Older Patients

Carla Graf, RN, PhD, focuses on the functional needs of older adults, particularly after discharge from the hospital. Her recent research is aimed at evaluation of how hospitals recognize delirium in older patients, as well as identification of patients who can benefit from home visits by a geriatrician or geriatric nurse after hospital discharge.

Wound Healing

Nancy Stotts, RN, EdD, in her current research looks at factors affecting the rate of repair of wounds; the effects of oxygen, hydration and nutrition on healing; prevention of pressure ulcers in surgical patients; recovery in older adults; measurements of healing; and cognition and functional status changes during illness and recovery in older adults.

Preparing Clinicians for Natural Disasters

Garrett Chan, RN, PhD, recently received funding from the Emergency Nurses Association Foundation to investigate the clinical and ethical decisionmaking of clinicians who responded to the Haiti earthquake, many of whom were unprepared for mass casualties. He hopes to build on this research by integrating the concept of palliative care and ethical decisionmaking in predeployment briefings of clinicians who respond to these disasters, as well as in their debriefing process.