Notes from the Dean's Desk
Jefferson’s Expanded Research Efforts Offer Abundant Opportunities for Nurse Scientists
Since becoming Dean of the Jefferson College of Nursing (JCN) almost two years ago, one of my key initiatives has been to grow JCN’s research productivity and profile. Building the foundation of evidence for nursing practice validates nurses’ unique contributions to the health and well-being of the nation. As part of this new emphasis, I have recruited several prominent nurse scientists and created an infrastructure within JCN to promote research and innovation under the leadership of Associate Dean Joanne Robinson.
Dr. Robinson and I work together to assure that all of our faculty have the support and connections to explore their areas of interest, expertise and passion in both nursing education and clinical practice. Some of these focus areas include opioid use, infection control and service dogs to support veterans with mental health issues.
For instance, the opioid-use epidemic is a current national challenge and one of JCN’s primary research areas. JCN faculty member Dr. Karen Alexander, in her work with Jefferson’s Maternal Addiction Treatment Education & Research (MATER), has launched an initiative to help women who are addicted to opioids during and after their pregnancies. Read about some of her findings in Issues in Mental Health Nursing. Another JCN faculty member, Dr. Hannah Smith, is leading a team of investigators who are educating emergency department staff about the “warm handoff” as a best practice for transitioning patients with opioid use disorder from the emergency department to care settings in the community.
Drs. Mary Lou Manning and Monika Pogarzelska-Maziarz are studying and incubating novel approaches to bolster nurse engagement in stewarding the appropriate use of antibiotics. This work aims to reduce the unnecessary use of antibiotics and emergence of multidrug-resistant infections – one of the most urgent public health challenges of our time. Dr. Manning received the prestigious Carol DeMille Achievement Award from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) last June for her visionary leadership and significant contributions to the field of infection prevention and control. Her article about the role of the infection preventionist was recently published by the American Journal of Infection Control. Dr. Pogarzelska-Maziarz’s article on infection preventionist staffing in nursing homes was published in the American Journal of Infection Control earlier this year. The pair, along with their JCN faculty colleagues, Drs. David Jack and Lori Wheeler, conducted an exhaustive evaluation of infection prevention and control content in the undergraduate curriculum, prompting the integration of contemporary, complex exemplars and simulation activities.
As thousands of military veterans return home from trouble spots around the world, Jefferson nurse scientists are exploring a novel intervention to help veterans with mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Drs. Jennifer Shiroff and Jacquelyn O’Rourke-Fulford, both assistant professors at JCN, have partnered with Leashes of Valor, an organization dedicated to providing trained service dogs to veterans for symptom management of PTSD and TBI. While stories abound on the success of this approach, especially in overcoming reliance on psychiatric drugs, there is little scientific evidence to justify reimbursement for service dogs as a “medically necessary” expense for veterans with mental health issues. Drs. Shiroff and O’Rourke-Fulford are taking aim at this gap with a study that explores how and why the relationship between a veteran and trained service dog helps to heal the emotional wounds of veterans.
Many of the current studies at JCN are supported by a $500,000 grant from the Stratton Foundation, established in 1970 by the late James W. Stratton, a long-time member of the Board of Trustees of Thomas Jefferson University. During his lifetime, Mr. Stratton was an advocate for philanthropy to recycle wealth into the advancement of medical research, medical education and access to healthcare. I am grateful for this support.
I look forward to sharing the outcomes of our faculty’s research and innovation in the future, and I hope you’ll follow our story as it unfolds. Find me on Twitter (@DeanJeffNursing) and explore our College of Nursing website. As always, I’d love to hear from you personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.