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Nursing Honors Students to Present Research
at Annual Nursing Honors Luncheon April 26

RELEASED: April 13, 2007

EAU CLAIRE Nursing students enrolled in the Nursing Honors Program will be recognized at the annual Nursing Honors Luncheon to be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, April 26, in the Tamarack Room of Davies Center. Speakers for the luncheon will include senior students who will present their honors research.

The Nursing Honors Program gives students the opportunity to extend the learning they receive in the classroom by requiring them to analyze and critically appraise knowledge from nursing and other disciplines, which develops scholarship skills like reading, critical thinking and writing, said Dr. CeCelia Zorn, a professor in the department of nursing systems.

"As nursing is moving closer to a practice-based discipline, 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," Zorn said. "The Nursing Honors Program helps students to learn and practice those skills."

Zorn went on to say that students' research allows them to delve more deeply, broadly and comprehensively into a nursing practice area that interests them. Students can research topics ranging from political activity to the care of burn patients and their families.

The Honors Program has enabled junior Mary Schliesmann, Chippewa Falls, to explore the connection between music therapy and nursing practices. Schliesmann's research has been guided by Lee Anna Rasar, a UW-Eau Claire music therapy professor. Rasar has helped Schliesmann focus and apply her research by sharing her expertise as a music therapist and her connections in the Eau Claire community. Schliesmann said her research is teaching her that music therapy can be used by nurses to go above and beyond basic care and really impact a patient's life.

"The Nursing Honors Program has opened doors and allowed me to keep learning outside of the classroom," Schliesmann said. "I am not only learning about nursing in my nursing classes, but I am also learning about other topics and am able to tie it into my nursing studies and expand my knowledge base."

Schliesmann educates community members about music therapy through a prenatal education class at Sacred Heart Hospital, where she teaches expectant mothers about music therapy in labor and delivery. In addition, she meets with a pregnant mother in the mother's home and educates her about how she can use music therapy in her life and the lives of her children.

Schliesmann said that she anticipates her honors work will positively influence her practice as a professional nurse. By applying the music therapy theories she is learning, Schliesmann believes she will be able to increase patient comfort and care and possibly make a better life for her patients.

"The program is helping me to grow into a professional nurse and not just a nursing student," Schliesmann said.

Senior Sarah Medrano, Eau Claire, also sees her honors work helping her become a better nursing professional.

"I am learning how important research is to the nursing program," Medrano said. "Even if I do not do primary research, I still need to be aware of existing current research and what the implications of that research are for my practice as a future RN."

Medrano's honors research topic is cultural diversity in healthcare, with a focus on the Hispanic population in the United States healthcare system. She studies Hispanic culture and shares the information with fellow student nurses.

Medrano's first honors project focused on teaching hospital nurses how to care for Hispanic patients in a culturally sensitive way. In her presentation to her nursing peers, Medrano discussed the definition of the Hispanic population, Mexican American values, the barriers to healthcare for Hispanic patients and how nurses can help eliminate or reduce these barriers. Medrano also worked to show her peers how culturally competent healthcare concepts can be used with Hispanic patients.

In her second honors project, Medrano researched the prevalence of hypertension in Hispanic individuals, along with the cultural implications and nursing considerations when caring for those individuals. In addition to sharing her research with other nursing students, Medrano said she also hopes to participate in a project in the future which could lead to expanding cultural experiences in the nursing curriculum.

By helping others understand the needs of individuals better, Medrano hopes they will receive better care. More importantly, Medrano anticipates that her honors work will positively influence the manner in which she cares for her patients in the future.

"I think being aware and sensitive to the similarities and differences of us all will make me a better RN," Medrano said.

For Junior Jessica Branson, Appleton, the Honors Nursing program is helping her become a better nurse by giving her the opportunity to take an in-depth look at cancer and oncology nursing, which she hopes to specialize in after she graduates.

"The content of the nursing courses doesn't take an in-depth look at cancer. The honors program has helped me take the initiative to obtain a deeper understanding of cancer and oncology nursing," said Branson.

Branson said her research on cancer issues and a nurse's role in caring for cancer patients has taught her the professional skills of leadership and collaboration. In addition, she said she's learned the importance of research to practicing nurses and the struggles they have to overcome to keep their practice current.

As a result, Branson also conducted research on the use of discussion groups to educate nurses about the results of current research and more quickly bring that knowledge into nursing practice. Branson not only analyzes the effectiveness of these groups, she also investigates the idea that undergraduate students can lead these discussion groups. She has worked at various nursing practice sites to organize discussion groups and evaluate how much the staff learns from the discussions. She also tried leading a discussion group herself.

"My overall goal is to show that undergraduate nursing students have a role in nursing research," Branson said.

Branson presented her research at an Oncology Nursing Society Conference, where her poster received second place in the subcategory of enhancing oncology care delivery. The conference also gave Branson the opportunity to discuss her project and other nursing research with advance practice nurses and researchers from all over the world.

Zorn hopes the experiences of Schliesmann, Medrano and Branson demonstrate how the honors nursing program aids students in growing professionally and developing a variety of skills.

"The nursing honors program pulls ideas together from students' past and helps them envision their future practice more reflectively and see their contribution to nursing as multidimensional," Zorn said.

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RK/NW

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