Two faculty and one doctoral student from the Rush University College of Nursing earned top honors from the Midwest Nursing Research Society, also known as MNRS, which includes more than 1,300 nursing scientists, scholars and other members. The nurses earned the awards for their important research projects at MNRS’ 2021 Virtual Conference this week. Kicking off the conference was Rush professor Wrenetha A. Julion, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, CNL, chair of the Department of Women, Children and Family Nursing, who presented the opening keynote on team-based approaches to advancing health equity through the lens of cultural sensibility.
“This is a timely topic because of the ever-pressing need to address disparities that have been made even more apparent due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Julion says. “Too often, researchers have not dived deeply into the root causes of health disparities, and in order to make a difference must take into consideration the social determinants of health as well as the impact of racism on health disparities. Without being intentional about addressing the root causes of health disparities, we will not be able move the needle on promoting health equity.”
During her keynote on Wednesday, Julion stressed that it is time for nursing scholars to take a fresh look at health disparities and actively address them through culturally sensible care. She also urged her peers to continue focusing their attention on the importance of promoting greater diversity in nursing practice, education and research.
Faculty honored for scholarly work on memory loss and end-of-life care
The recent recognition from MNRS exemplifies the College of Nursing’s strong commitment to support nursing scholars as they explore innovative ways to advance nursing practice, says Christine M. Kennedy, PhD, RN, FAAN, the John L. and Helen Kellogg Dean of Nursing.
“The College of Nursing is recalibrating nursing science by focusing on collaborative efforts to increase the relevance, timeliness, quality and impact of the field — thus challenging the status quo,” Kennedy says. “At Rush, we are focused on research that impacts community lives today and societal impact tomorrow. These award-winners epitomize our new direction forward to the future.”
Shannon Halloway, PhD, RN, assistant professor in the Department of Community, Systems and Mental Health Nursing, earned the Harriet H. Werley New Investigator Award, which MNRS presents to nursing scholars within seven years of completing their doctorate degrees. Halloway’s research, funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Nursing Research, studies the effectiveness of a lifestyle intervention to delay memory loss in a diverse population of older women with cardiovascular disease. Called MindMoves, the intervention combines lifestyle physical activity as well as cognitive training.
“I’ve always connected with the older adult population,” says Halloway, who once worked as a caregiver in nursing homes and as a registered nurse in critical care settings. “My time in critical care made me want to improve health outside of the hospital setting. Then I switched my focus to more community-based care and preventive health behaviors that can postpone chronic health conditions.” She credits her supportive mentors in the College of Nursing and at MNRS for helping shape her research interests over time.
Halloway says she is honored by the MNRS award and hopes that it will raise more awareness of lifestyle behaviors to prevent chronic health conditions.
Masako Mayahara, PhD, RN, CHPN, FPCN, associate professor in the Department of Community, Systems and Mental Health Nursing, earned two Mid-Career Investigator Awards from MNRS Research Interest Groups for her work on palliative and end-of-life care and symptom science. The awards recognize nursing scholars who are more than 10 years post-doctoral degree and have demonstrated a consistent record of contributions to palliative and end-of-life care and symptom science.
Mayahara’s research focuses on facilitating pain and analgesic management by hospice caregivers. “I am passionate about delivering care at the end of life that allows patients to be comfortable and free from pain,” she says. She is currently principal investigator on a study funded by the NIH’s National Institute of Nursing Research to test the effects of a digital app on pain intensity among hospice patients. The app provides education to hospital patients and caregivers as well as pain reporting to nurses. “A major benefit is that nurses are informed in real time of a patient’s pain level and can respond without delay to assist caregiver management of pain at home,” Mayahara says.
PhD student earns grant for research on physical activity in pregnant Black women
Meghan Garland, CNM, APRN-C, a doctoral student at the College of Nursing, earned the MNRS/Aurora Health Dissertation Grant for her research on the determinants of physical activity among pregnant Black women. Garland aims to develop a culturally tailored physical activity intervention for women with limited access to high-quality care. “I saw an opportunity to promote health in a population that oftentimes is overlooked or doesn’t receive the quality of health care that they deserve,” she says.
Garland, currently an instructor with Frontier Nursing University, has been a certified nurse-midwife for the past 19 years. At Frontier, Garland discussed her interest in pursuing a PhD program with a community health focus with Janet Engstrom, PhD, who had taken a temporary position at the university after retiring from Rush. “She just said to me, ‘You belong at Rush,’” Garland says. “I really wanted to get that research-focused degree so that I could actually generate the kind of evidence that I always wished I had in clinical practice.”
Garland, who began her doctoral work at Rush in 2015, values how the College of Nursing has created a community for its distance learning students. “That’s so important when you’re doing a program like this, because it is really easy to feel like you’re the only PhD student in the world,” she says. She also appreciates the mentorship she has received from faculty. “That’s the kind of quality of education you get at Rush,” Garland says. “You get the best.”
Kennedy believes the CON faculty and students’ long history of contributing to MNRS is part of what creates this dimension of excellence, which propels success for improving care in the communities Rush serves.