DNP Students Utilize Translational Research

Scholarship and research are the hallmarks of doctoral education. In nursing education, an expanded perspective of scholarship has emerged that involves the translation of research into practice and the dissemination and integration of new knowledge, which the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) states are key activities of DNP graduates.

“Research-focused doctoral programs in nursing are designed to prepare graduates with the research skills necessary for discovering new knowledge in the discipline,” said DNP director and assistant dean for graduate programs, Dr. Susan Hibben. “In contrast, DNP graduates provide leadership for evidence-based practice. This requires competence in knowledge application activities: the translation of research into practice, the evaluation of practice, improvement of the reliability of health care practice and outcomes, and participation in collaborative research.”

As one of the building skills for the DNP project, students collaborate in the process of a Systematic Review. In this process, the graduate nursing student incorporates education and research into a practice that is reflective of the dynamic needs of a diverse population.

One project by DNP candidate Sharon Reams Henry, titled “Building a Stronger Workforce for Nurses That Work in Post-acute Care, Focusing on Structural Empowerment and Reducing Nurse Turnover,” shed light on the shortage of nurses in post-acute care and how it is just one of many significant problems that challenge and impact health care. It often seen as the last level of care, according to Henry.

“This nursing shortage indirectly contributes to increasing demands and workload among other team members, which in turn tends to affect associate engagement, morale, and retention of those employees. As the workload increase among nurses in home health, this also impacts vacancy and turnover and puts a tremendous strain on nursing administrators and other health care leaders to find innovative ways to attract more nurses to post-acute care,” she explained.

Henry’s research supported the fact that it remains critically necessary for home healthcare providers to attract, recruit, and retain nursing staff to reduce overhead, often resulting in increased organization costs.

Said Henry, “I have worked in-home care for over 25 years and have seen nurses in-home care struggle and leave due to burnout from the stress of keeping up with the documentation and constant change due to new regulatory guidance from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This project will aim to build a more robust workforce in post-acute care for nurses by promoting structural empowerment, work-life balance, and a mentorship/mentee program. Professionally, it allowed me to generate a translation of evidence to a workforce such as post-acute care that is limited by gaining in-depth knowledge from research with the development of effective evidence-based interventions and the implementation of a quality improvement recommendations, that could help to build a stronger workforce that is sustainable and one that would support and reduce nursing turnover in post-acute care.”

Through this advanced leadership role, the DNP graduate becomes instrumental in ensuring health promotion, health maintenance and health restoration for society. Through scientific inquiry and collaborative relationships, the DNP-prepared advanced practice nurse continually augments and refines the science of nursing.

In LCON’s graduate programs, students perform a critical literature review in their Research and Biostatics course and continue to develop this clinical topic in their evidence-based practice course as a project proposal. For FNP students, by the time they are in their final clinical residency course, they have transformed this from paper, to a proposal slide set, to a conference-ready poster. Typically, posters are presented on campus, but because of COVID, and with assistance from full-time and adjunct faculty, students presented this spring and summer via Zoom, using breakout rooms “and patience,” added Hibben. This allowed for scholarly dialogue for each project with students and faculty.

USF Teacher Candidates Explore Lunchtime Learning with Special Needs Students

Teacher candidates in Dr. Srimani Chakravarthi’s Survey of the Exceptional Individual course are gaining knowledge and experience applicable to their future classrooms through a partnership with a special group of students at Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210. For many of the teaching candidates, this collaboration is their first opportunity to work with individuals with special needs.

The class began in spring of 2015 and runs every semester, with approximately 150 teacher candidates having participated so far. The periodic lunch gatherings, held at USF, allows teacher candidates the chance to gain perspective regarding the range of disabilities they might encounter when working in an inclusive classroom setting or as a special education teacher. Many candidates are pleased to find out just how much they have in common with students—from favorite sports teams and foods to future goals.

The partnership also gives Lincoln-Way students the opportunity to work on important skills outside their more familiar and comfortable school environment. With each meeting, the students work at forming relationships with peers, socialization, ordering from a menu, eating at a restaurant, budgeting, and paying for purchases.

After the group meets for lunch, each teacher candidate is asked to consider what accommodations or adaptations may be required to assist the special needs of the student or students in the classroom and to reflect upon any change of perception he/she has undergone about individuals with special needs.

This collaboration is much more than just lunch. It is a rich learning experience for all participants and serves to further USF’s commitment to building an inclusive community through acceptance, flexible thinking, respecting differences, and finding common ground.

Dr. Chakravarthi finds it to be one of her favorite experiences. Why?

“Many reasons. Primarily, almost all my teacher candidates feel like it is meaningful and they really enjoyed getting a perspective of a student with disability. I feel it is a win-win situation where my candidates get experience without leaving campus, and their students get to meet peers of their age and socialize, without any added pressure of ‘learning formally’ – since it is not a classroom-based experience but one focusing on communication and social interaction. I love watching my candidates grow comfortable in talking to students with disabilities and demonstrate a newfound way to respect them and note what they are capable of doing, instead of their ‘need’ areas which are apparent.”

According to Chakravarthi, candidates indicate that they have a renewed perspective on the abilities of students with exceptional needs.

“They learn that there are several nuances to simple acts like buying lunch, serving yourself, making good food choices and conversation skills as they note the varied skills involved in each act. It is a great opportunity for them to observe the students partaking in a ‘life skill’ experience while getting to teach them how to do it,” she said.

Chakravarthi and Dr. Lisa White McNulty recently co-authored a research paper about this experience which will soon be published in the International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. The study indicated that teacher candidates showed ability to note specific strength and need areas of students that would be useful to plan instruction. There were also indicators of attitudinal shift about their perceptions on individuals with disabilities. Candidates also reveal that this experience is one of their favorite ones, and they enjoy their interactions with students with disabilities.