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UW-Eau Claire Nursing Professor Receives
NIH Grant for Nursing Home Research
MAILED: Dec. 4, 2002
EAU CLAIRE — With the nursing home population expected to triple in the next few decades, health care professionals, nursing home regulators and consumers need efficient and effective ways to measure the quality of nursing home care more than ever before.
The National Institute of Health, National Institute of Nursing Research, has awarded a $923,000 grant to a team of researchers who since 1993 have conducted research and evaluation projects to improve the quality of care for older adults and have developed an instrument they hope will do just that.
Dr. Mary Zwygart-Stauffacher, professor and chair of the department of nursing systems, has for nearly a decade been part of a research team headed by Dr. Marilyn Rantz, from the University of Missouri-Columbia Sinclair School of Nursing. UW-Eau Claire was recently notified that Zwygart-Stauffacher will receive year-one funding of $152,910 for the two-year project that she is participating in with Rantz’s team of researchers from the MU-Columbia Sinclair School of Nursing and the MU Health Sciences Center.
According to Zwygart-Stauffacher, who has been in gerontological nursing for more than 25 years and was recently inducted as a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, there are presently several approaches being explored to improve quality of care in nursing homes and to measure the outcomes.
The funded research is an extension of the preliminary work to develop an observable indicators instrument — an easily used list of questions and ratings designed to measure the multidimensional concept of quality in nursing homes. Designed to allow for completion within a 20- to 30-minute tour of a facility, the instrument directs users to assess such things as the home’s general environment, its noise level, the presence of odors and how well the staff seems to respond to residents’ needs.
Consumer interest in and demand for such a tool has been so high, said Zwygart-Stauffacher, that the researchers were urged to get their information out to the public as soon as possible. The resulting book, “The New Nursing Homes: A 20-Minute Way to Find Great Long Term Care” (2001), co-authored by Rantz, Lori Popejoy and Zwygart-Stauffacher, has already won two awards — Book of the Year from the American Journal of Nursing and the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing Pinnacle Award for Research Dissemination to the Public.
But the work continues, said Zwygart-Stauffacher. Despite the success of their book, the researchers are continuing to test and refine their instrument, with funding provided by the NIH grant.
How valid is the instrument and does it measure everything it should measure? Can it be improved without making it more complex or time-consuming? Would slightly different versions be required to make it useful to health care professionals and regulators as well as consumers? Zwygart-Stauffacher said these are some of the questions the researchers in Missouri are asking now as they lead phase I of the project to re-evaluate and refine the tool, field testing it in nursing homes there.
Beginning next summer, Zwygart-Stauffacher will lead phase II of the study, which will involve field testing the revised version in approximately 150 nursing homes in Wisconsin and Minnesota. A team of local nurse researchers will be hired to help with the effort, and it is possible that some graduate nursing students will be involved as well, she said. The facilities, which Zwygart-Stauffacher said she hopes to recruit for the study by next spring, will probably be within a three-hour driving radius of Eau Claire.
The third and final phase of the project will involve using the data gathered in the field studies in all three states to once again re-evaluate and refine the instrument, leading to a final version.
Information about the project can be obtained by contacting Zwygart-Stauffacher at the UW-Eau Claire School of Nursing, (715) 836-4904.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: December 4, 2002