Nursing Professor and Researcher Gail Ingersoll Dies at Age 62

Leaves a Legacy of Advancements in Patient Care Delivery

December 05, 2011

Gail Ingersoll, EdD, RN, FAAN, FNAP

Gail L. Ingersoll, EdD, RN, FAAN, FNAP, director of Clinical Nursing Research at Strong Memorial Hospital, and the Loretta C. Ford Professor of Nursing at the School of Nursing, died on December 5, 2011 after a battle with cancer. She was 62.

Ingersoll is remembered as a pioneer in the field of nursing research, a prolific grant writer, and a catalyst for improving the provision of high-quality, family-centered care. Her passionate focus on clinical nursing research sprung from her own early experiences as a direct care nurse in the 1970s, and her many path-breaking projects over the last three decades led to tangible improvements in patient care delivery and the work environment for nurses -- both within the University of Rochester Medical Center and across the country.

Within the Medical Center, Ingersoll implemented and directed a research internship program, and the numerous projects under her direction improved care delivery processes in the Medical Intensive Care Unit, Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Emergency Department, Operating Room, Wilmot Cancer Center and each of the specialty services in inpatient and outpatient settings. Specifically, her work contributed to a reduction in pressure ulcer rates, greater accuracy in recording blood loss during operative procedures, and refinements in the way body temperature is measured in pediatric emergency patients. Other studies under her leadership looked at ways to reduce falls in hospitalized patients, and reduce nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Ingersoll was appointed Loretta Ford Professor at the School of Nursing in 2003. She is pictured here with Patricia Chiverton, EdD, RN, FNAP, dean of the School from 2000 to 2008.

On a larger scale, a 2003 study facilitated by Ingersoll paved the way for the development of a nonverbal method to assess pain in patients unable to respond due to intubation. This method is now used in more than 100 hospitals around the world. Another of her projects led to revisions in the national standards of care for managing patients undergoing radiation treatment for cancer.

“Gail’s gift was in helping clinical nursing staff determine which procedures work best, and what we could do to improve the care we give to patients,” said Patricia Witzel, RN, MS, MBA, FNAP, NEA-BC,  associate vice president for the University of Rochester Medical Center and chief nursing officer for Strong Memorial Hospital. “She was also deeply committed to improving the working environment for nurses, which in turn, strengthens patient care. She involved so many of our nurses in evidence-based research that not only led to better care for patients, but enriched the lives of nurses.”

From 2004 to 2009, Ingersoll directed a project funded by a $1.25 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, to evaluate and restructure the Medical Center’s adult critical care units. The project’s primary goal was to strengthen recruitment and retention of highly competent nurses on the units, which were facing a shortage of applicants at the time. Ingersoll’s research spurred the implementation of a comprehensive orientation program for nurses that proved transformational and led to a waiting list of applicants. Her published work on this project has been widely recognized and utilized by hospitals across the country.

Beyond her own accomplishments, Ingersoll was always eager to share her knowledge with others, and is remembered as an approachable instructor who provided daily support and advice to faculty and students about how to obtain grant funding and all aspects of the research process.

“Gail was a wonderful mentor, teacher and researcher who gave her whole heart to the nursing profession,” said School of Nursing Interim Dean Kathy H. Rideout, EdD, PNP-BC, FNAP.  “She has mentored literally thousands of faculty and students, and was beloved here as a friend and a source of inspiration, ideas, and encouragement to so many people. Anyone who had the privilege of working alongside Gail was better as a result.”

School of Nursing Associate Dean for Innovation and Community Outreach Lisa Norsen, PhD, RN, ACNP-BC, was a colleague and close friend of Ingersoll’s for more than 30 years.

“Gail inspired me, as she did so many others, to always reach high and dream big,” said Norsen.  “Her legacy lies in the students, clinicians, faculty and patients that she touched and whose lives she changed.”             

A native of Utica, N.Y., Ingersoll began her career as a staff nurse in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at the Medical Center in 1971, shortly after graduating from Alfred State College. By 1977, she was an assistant clinician, and by 1979, she was a nurse manager. In 1986, she joined the faculty of the School of Nursing, while working toward her doctorate in educational administration, obtaining grants, and conducting research to improve patient care and nursing practice at the Medical Center. From 1992 to 1999, she lived in Indiana, where she was professor and department chair at Indiana University School of Nursing, and later at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. At Vanderbilt, she also served as associate dean for research and directed the school’s doctoral program.

In 2000, she returned to Rochester to direct the Clinical Nursing Research Center and serve as professor of nursing at the School of Nursing. In 2007, she was named the Loretta C. Ford Professor in primary care nursing and appointed director of the School’s Center for Outcomes Measurement & Practice Innovation. Among her many honors, she most recently received the 2011 March of Dimes Research/Author Nurse of the Year Award, the 2011 Strong Memorial Hospital M.E. Clark Pioneer in Nursing Award,and a 2010 Rochester Business Journal Healthcare Achievement Award.

In a 2010 article published in the Rochester Business Journal, Ingersoll noted, “I have always enjoyed my role as a nurse, whether at the bedside during my early years, or as a professor, administrator, and researcher in later life. Each role has allowed me to grow as an individual and to participate in the development of others.”

A "Celebration of Life" for Ingersoll is planned for 4:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9, 2012 in the School of Nursing Loretta Ford Auditorium.  A reception will follow in the School of Nursing atrium.

She is survived by her sister, Carol Qualls, nephew, Brandon (Dana) Qualls; and grand-nieces Aneliese and Evangaline Qualls, all of Rochester; and her brother Gary (Helen) Ingersoll and family of Bloomington, Indiana.  

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Strong Memorial Hospital Nursing Practice, Gail Ingersoll Research Fund, 601 Elmwood Ave., Box 619-7, Roch., N.Y. 14616.

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Christine Roth
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