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Nursing Students, Alumni to Share Diverse Research at Annual Nursing Honors Luncheon

RELEASED: April 13, 2006

Susan Karlman
Senior nursing student Susan Karlman will be among those presenting their research at the UW-Eau Claire Nursing Honors Luncheon April 27. Karlman, who plans to become an adult and geriatric nurse practitioner, has focused her research on physical, spiritual and psychosocial issues and interventions within the aging population. (UW-Eau Claire photo by Rick Mickelson)

EAU CLAIRE — Students enrolled in the Nursing Honors Program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will be recognized at the Annual Nursing Honors Luncheon to be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, April 27, in the Tamarack Room of Davies Center. Speakers for the luncheon include senior students and alumni who will present their honors research work.

According to Dr. CeCelia Zorn, a professor in the department of nursing systems, this type of research has become increasingly important in recent years as the nursing profession continues to change. The National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice has recommended that by 2010 at least two-thirds of all registered nurses hold baccalaureate or higher degrees. Presently, only 32 percent of registered nurses are prepared at the baccalaureate level and an additional 10 percent educated at the master's level or above.

"As nursing is moving closer to a practice based on research, baccalaureate-prepared nurses will need both the critical thinking skills and the compassion to link patient care that honors the individual patient and yet uses the latest information from our research. The Nursing Honors Program helps students to learn and practice those skills," said Zorn, adding that the Nursing Honors Program also opens doors for students.

"The students can build on both the general education courses and the nursing courses to create a little different journey of learning," she said. "As the students move through the program, that journey often changes in shape and form from semester to semester, reflecting the students' own patterns of discovery, as they change also."

Junior Aaron Whalen, Eau Claire, is a good example. Whalen said his grandfather was a physician and his extended family includes several nurses and others in the healthcare field, so for awhile it was assumed he would go to medical school. But he was finally attracted to nursing because he sees the profession as a whole moving towards a more holistic approach to healthcare.

"A keystone of nursing practice is advocacy for patients and their families," said Whalen, citing as examples the influence of nurses in forming policies concerning things like home care, nursing homes, the practices of health departments, and legislation concerning patient rights.

A non-traditional student, Whalen at one time considered majoring in political science. Not surprisingly, his honors research activities have been concerned with some of the "socio-political" aspects of the nursing profession. For example, for a class concerned with health deviations in adults, he did a project about the movement and effects of certain diseases that affect the homeless population.

One of Whalen's more unusual projects involved a poster produced by the Oregon Center for Nursing for the purpose of recruiting more men into a profession struggling to recruit enough new nurses to replace the rapidly aging population of current nurses. The recruitment poster, titled "Are You Man Enough … To Be a Nurse?" depicts eight real male nurses, not in their nurses' scrubs, but in clothing associated with other aspects of their lives as men — riding Harley motorcycles, rock climbing, etc.

The poster started Whalen thinking about both the positive and negative influences that photography can have upon a given profession. Whalen interviewed the photographer and others involved in designing the poster and then used his knowledge of semiotics, the science of signs, to analyze the poster campaign, which challenges viewers to see the men involved in a profession traditionally dominated by women as "risk-takers" willing to bring their "intelligence, courage and skill" to an environment that emphasizes "service and compassion."

Whalen's paper states that while it is too early to accurately quantify the long-term effects of the campaign, in Oregon, where more than 3,000 of the posters have been circulated since 2002, the percentage of males in nursing is currently at 12 percent. At the national level, the figure is only 5 percent.

Whalen's work seems to exemplify the journey of discovery Zorn mentioned. The Nursing Honors Program requires students to complete eight honors credits and encourages students to synthesize knowledge from the general studies area. They may complete up to five of those credits with independent study projects related to courses in other disciplines. Whalen completed this project, one of three he has completed so far, in conjunction with "Visual Communication," a course in the communication and journalism department. His honors adviser is Sharon Hydo, a clinical instructor in the department of nursing systems.

Some students, like senior Susan Karlman, Onalaska, focus all their projects in one specific area. Ever since she volunteered at a nursing home when she was in high school, Karlman has known that she wanted to work in the area of gerontology. She plans to become an adult and geriatric nurse practitioner. Her adviser is Dr. Mary Zwygart-Stauffacher, a professor in department of nursing systems who's been a gerontological nurse for more than 25 years and part of a team of researchers developing instruments to measure nursing home quality for more than a decade.

"Over the past two years I have examined and analyzed some of the physical, spiritual and psychosocial issues and interventions within the aging population," Karlman said.

Under the physical category, Karlman has done projects involving special nursing interventions to deal with the implications of osteoarthritis, as well as an analysis of the nursing care delivery system aimed at reducing the number of falls in a nursing home. At a nursing home in Minnesota, she shadowed a staff member to study the physical changes in Alzheimer's patients that create the need for progressive assisted living facilities.

As part of her exploration of the spiritual needs of the elderly, she did an independent study with Dr. Susan Peck, an adult health nursing faculty member certified in healing touch, an alternative therapy that helps meet both the physical and spiritual needs of the elderly.

And for one of her projects in the psychosocial realm, done in conjunction with a course on cross-cultural nursing, she studied the need for assessment and intervention related to depression in the elderly Hmong population.

"The Honors Nursing Program is an excellent opportunity for creativity and innovation in whatever area you choose to follow," Karlman said.

Junior Marcella Robinson, Friendship, agrees.

"You can focus on whatever you want and your adviser helps guide your studies," said Robinson. "I definitely feel like I'll have a jump on what I need to know to be a nurse anesthetist."

All of Robinson's projects have involved surgical patients and during her senior year she will shadow a nurse anesthetist at Sacred Heart Hospital. She wrote a paper on the role of nurses in preparing patients for surgery and helping them to recover, and for a pathophysiology course did a more specific study on the reactions of patients with colo-rectal cancer. She also conducted a literature review and wrote a paper on how music therapy can be used with surgical patients. Her adviser is Cheryl Brandt, an assistant professor in the adult health nursing department.

Karlman will present her research at this month's Nursing Honors Luncheon. Whalen and Robinson will get their chance to present when they become seniors.

"This is a wonderful professional opportunity for the students to present their scholarship in a bit more of a formal way, and is also a forum for sharing ideas with the students just beginning their honors work," said Zorn.



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