Nurses Receive $1.2 Million To Study Issues Affecting Youth

July 06, 2001

In Memphis, Tenn., visits by nurses to young women who are pregnant allow young families to establish a more stable family structure, spend fewer months on welfare and get on their feet more quickly. In Elmira, the visits help create children who are less likely to use drugs, have run-ins with the law, or engage in irresponsible sexual behavior.

Women and families in approximately 250 communities in 23 states around the nation now benefit from the nurse-visitation program that nurse researchers at the University of Rochester's School of Nursing helped to create more than 20 years ago. The program shows how research by a small group of nurses and their colleagues can go on to affect the lives of thousands or millions of people around the world.

This week, similar research at the School of Nursing received a major boost, with a training grant of $1.2 million from the National Institute of Nursing Research to study issues affecting high-risk children and youth. The five-year grant will support the salaries and work of three new researchers each year, contributing to the training of 15 nurses who will do research in an attempt to solve some of society's most vexing problems. The participants will include practicing nurses or nurse practitioners who have decided to earn their doctorates so they can discover new ways to improve the health of children and adolescents.

"These are nurses who are confronting questions in their clinical practice for which we currently have no answers. They're facing some of the major challenges in society today related to the health of our children. They want to do research so they can discover methods of providing care that are most helpful," says Harriet Kitzman, R.N., Ph.D., the Loretta Ford Professor of Nursing, who is heading the training program.

"There are important, perplexing questions confronting nurses and other health care providers daily. What can health care providers do to enhance the health and well-being of children and adolescents? And how do we translate what we have learned into intervention programs that really are effective?"

The issues facing today's youth mirror the formidable list of concerns many parents have. Among the topics to be addressed with the new funding:

  • Treating substance abuse more effectively
  • Recognizing and living with chronic illnesses such as asthma
  • Reducing risk for HIV infection
  • Preventing childhood injuries in the home
  • Avoiding violence
  • Reducing truancy
  • Coping with critical illness

While the problems are daunting, Kitzman points out that every generation faces a set of unique challenges. The dramatically increasing incidence of asthma, for instance, is something that previous generations have not faced. Nurse researcher Lorrie Yoos, R.N., Ph.D., is developing new ways for children and their families to recognize symptoms and manage their disease more effectively.

The training program is part of the school's Center for High-Risk Children and Youth, which is headed by Marilyn Aten, R.N., Ph.D. In the two years since it was created, the center's researchers have attracted more than $5 million in research funding. The school has one of the strongest nursing research programs in the nation in the area of children and youth. Its nurses collaborate regularly with physicians and other health-care professionals in schools, clinics, and hospitals around Rochester.

It's through sophisticated research - and years of training - that nurses try to find and test new ways of preventing, reducing, or coping with conditions like the stress of parenting, violence, drugs, and illness. Sometimes, as with Kitzman's nurse-visitation program, nursing research goes far beyond scholarly journals and makes its way into everyday practice. Jean Johnson, R.N., Ph.D., professor emeritus, was the first to realize that a well-informed patient is better able to cope with the events surrounding illness; her work is now a basic tenet of health care worldwide.

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