University of Rochester School of Nursing Brings Research to Life, and Life to Research

Three Research Centers Established; Focus on High-Risk Children and Elderly

November 19, 1999

In a bid to be one of the top 10 nursing research schools in the U.S. within five years, the University of Rochester School of Nursing is establishing three focused research centers: the Center for Clinical Research on Aging, the Center for High-Risk Children and Youth, and the Center for Clinical Trials and Medical Device Evaluation.

The move is part of the school's broader strategic plan to boost enrollment and strengthen the academic standing of the school. The centers will expose students to research, showing them how research drives practice and providing opportunities for students and practicing nurses to advance science and deliver innovative, high-quality patient care.

"Creating these centers helps to better organize our research efforts, cultivate a greater cohesiveness among researchers, and strengthen the connection between research and nursing practice," says Bernadette Melnyk, Ph.D., R.N.-C.S., P.N.P., associate dean for research, and director of the Center for Research and Evidence-Based Practice (an umbrella for the three centers).

Melnyk acknowledges that escalating from the 28th NIH ranked nursing school (out of 72) to the top 10 is an aggressive goal, but believes it is attainable given her projections for $2 million in total research funding over the next three to five years. The School of Nursing is currently funded for just over $700,000. The 10th ranked nursing school had $1.9 million in NIH funding in 1997. In addition, the school now requires faculty to generate 40 percent of their salaries through grants.

A focus in the areas of youth and aging was based on existing research strengths and funding in these areas. A core of funded School of Nursing researchers who have strong interdisciplinary connections were already established between the School of Nursing and the Department of Pediatrics, across the Medical Center and the community. Clinical nursing research in aging is another strength within the School of Nursing for similar reasons, including synergy with the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry's Center on Aging. The Center for Clinical Trials and Medical Devise Evaluation was established as a continuation of a natural alliance with the School of Medicine and Dentistry's clinical trial research, and will serve as a solid source of funding.

The Medical Center has allocated $75,000 per year for the next three years to support School of Nursing pilot studies and facilitate NIH grant applications. Melnyk is heavily recruiting three additional faculty researchers with high NIH funding potential for each center, in addition to an already established cadre of nationally known nurse researchers at the school.

About the Centers

Center for Clinical Research on Aging

The establishment of the Center for Clinical Research on Aging (CCRA) builds on many years of research in the school to improve the well being of older people. In the early seventies, School of Nursing researchers were among the first to demonstrate the value of interdisciplinary care planning for the chronically ill. Other School of Nursing studies have led the way in exploring the role of social networks in the quality of life of institutionalized elderly, identifying differences in clinical presentation of heart disease in older women, and testing new behavioral methods to improve incontinence for older women.

More recently, research has focused on improving the care and lives of people with dementia. Faculty researchers have demonstrated the benefit of rocking chair therapy (which received international attention), as well as small group humor therapy to improve emotional well being of persons with dementia; explored new ways to understand the ethical issues inherent in dementia care; and described the epidemiology of catastrophic reactions as an important clinical aspect of dementia. Current work is focused on ways to enhance spiritual care for people with dementia living in nursing homes, as well as ways to improve palliative care for people with dementia during their last year of life.

"The center will serve as a focal point linking nursing to research efforts throughout our community to improve the quality of life of the elderly, as well as their families and caregivers-in our community and throughout the country and the world," says Nancy Watson, Ph.D., R.N., CCRA director.

The Center for High-Risk Children and Youth

It is estimated that 20 to 25 percent of children have at least one physical chronic illness, while 20 percent live at or below the poverty guidelines. In addition, substance abuse, violence, mental health disorders, sexual activity are on the rise in children and adolescence. As a result, one of the most pressing national priorities facing health care providers today is to improve outcomes for these high-risk populations. Therefore, the main focus of the Center for High-Risk Children and Youth is to develop and test programs to enhance the health of chronically ill and high-risk children and adolescents.

According to center director Marilyn Aten, Ph.D., R.N., if the health and development of these vulnerable children are enhanced, there is increased likelihood that their adult years will be accompanied by increased rates of economic and personal independence, lower rates of chronic illnesses, lower costs of health care and social services, and improved well-being parents.

Center studies include a school-based program to reduce risky behaviors and HIV; a study looking at helping children with asthma recognize symptoms before they become severe, which would lead to proper self-management of the condition; a home-based nursing program to improve the health of underprivileged pregnant women and their children; and hospital-based studies to improve health outcomes in critically ill young children as well as low-birth-weight premature infants and their mothers.

Future initiatives of the Center will continue to focus on improving the overall health of high-risk children and youth and their families.

Center for Clinical Trials and Medical Device Evaluation

Since faculty at the School of Nursing and advanced practice nurses within Strong Memorial Hospital already have experience in participating in several clinical trials conducted by the UR Medical Center, the School of Nursing created the Center for Clinical Trials and Medical Device Evaluation (CCTMD). It now conducts its own clinical trials in close collaboration with Nursing Practice at Strong Memorial Hospital. The CCTMD provides industry-sponsored and NIH- and foundation-funded studies for pharmaceutical investigations and evaluates patient care devices with an emphasis on critical care, nutritional support and pediatrics.

The director of this center, Michael Ackerman, D.N.S., R.N., C.S., F.C.C.M., recently received his first grant to conduct a study on the incidence of resistant bacteria to certain antibiotics. He is in the process of obtaining two more industry-sponsored grants and expects to have three clinical trials operating in the next few months.

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