Gator Nursing faculty members feel that the accomplishments of their students are the winds of change.
A nurse with three decades of experience, Clinical Assistant Professor Sallie Shipman, EdD, MSN, RN, CNL, NHDP-BC, CNE, helps the next generation of Gator Nurses think of new ways to promote health in the communities they serve. Along with College of Nursing Clinical Assistant Professor Sally Bethart, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PHNA-BC, CNE, Shipman and Bethart developed a population health course where students were challenged to apply this frame of thinking outside the walls of the classroom.
The spring 2021 senior seminar, Clinical Reasoning and Personalized Nursing Care: Population Health, was one for the books. “With how the field is today, students who plan to pursue a graduate degree need to have a solid understanding of research and quality improvement,” Shipman said. “That’s why we’re trying to demystify research and make it accessible to our students. All nurses of the future must be able to review, evaluate and implement research into their practice, and furthering nursing research is essential to move the profession forward.”
For what would likely be their first deep dive into implementing research, students were tasked with creating quality improvement projects that would benefit their communities. Assigned one of 26 community providers ranging from local schools to the Florida Department of Health, students worked directly with each agency to identify a problem, create a solution based on the evidence and implement their innovation in a “real-world” quality improvement project. Students also had the opportunity to present their findings at the 2021 virtual Nursing Research Summit in April.
“The idea of what to do to help improve their community partner was completely up to students,” Shipman said. “For them, having the chance to think of an answer to the question ‘What can I do to help?’ and realize how they can implement research to make a difference in the community.”
Feeding the Future
Food Insecurity Among Elementary School Children
Charlene Bovill, Kellie Butler, Brittany Chambless, Krista Deegan
Mentor: Sally Bethart, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PHNA-BC, CNE
A school nurse in Lakeland Christian School, RN-to-BSN student Brittany Chambless was familiar with food insecurity in her town, as well as its negative impacts. For her quality improvement project, Chambless, a Polk County resident, assisted kidsPACK, a nonprofit community organization that provides packaged meals for school-aged children in the Polk County area to help combat childhood hunger.
“When kids don’t get the food they need, it affects how they concentrate and how they perform in school,” Chambless said. “Not getting enough to eat also puts a lot of stress on these kids, which can also affect their mental health.”
She and her group found kidsPACK while researching a community agency that could help get meals to elementary and middle school students in the area. But according to Chambless, the organization struggled to find a way to get fresh fruit to children in the area, due to its short shelf life.
To address the need for a non-perishable, nutritious fruit, Chambless and her group used their community connections in the county school system and the nearby medical system, BayCare, to request donations of applesauce. Her group also created pamphlets and activity pages that provided information on ways to relieve stress caused by food insecurity.
Donations from BayCare helped the group secure 1,100 containers of applesauce for students. The team also delivered over 300 educational pamphlets to parents and children.
Thanks to a food drive organized by Chambless at her school, 500 additional containers of applesauce were collected for kidsPACK to donate to food-insecure students. Chambless’ fifth-grade students also had the opportunity to volunteer at kidsPACK to make bagged lunches for students in need, learn more about its mission and discover how food insecurity may be impacting their peers.
“It was so cool to see all of these agencies come together for such an amazing cause,” Chambless said. “Teamwork is crucial to fighting food insecurity, and it was great to make a difference in these kids’ lives,”
Turning the Page
COVID-19 Leading to Ineffective Health Maintenance
Ali Boyd, Ava Mothersill, Hannah Sarver, Emily Smith, Jacob Zoltek
Mentors: Denise Schentrup, APRN, DNP, and Sallie Shipman, EdD, MSN, RN, CNL, NHDP-BC, CNE
As the nation began to turn the corner on the COVID-19 pandemic, community providers, such as the College of Nursing’s rural health clinic UF Health Archer Family Health Care, or AFHC, remained important health care centers to help vulnerable populations receive necessary care to be protected against the virus.
Two BSN student groups in Shipman’s population health class worked with Archer Family Health Care and the Florida Department of Health, or FDOH, to create communications materials that would help patients more easily receive quality care.
Working with AFHC, Ava Mothersil (BSN 2021) said she and her group discovered in the research phase of their project that patients avoiding primary care appointments became common during the pandemic. According to Mothersil, the team believed these absences were related to a lack of knowledge of the enhanced sanitation precautions taking place at clinics, such as AFHC, and alternatives to in-person appointments, like virtual telehealth visits.
Hannah Sarver (BSN 2021), said the group believes the project will help appointment attendance increase at AFHC. The group’s videos are now on the clinic’s website to raise community awareness about what AFHC is doing inside its walls to keep the community safe.
“This project definitely helped us become more well-rounded nurses,” Sarver said. “This issue does not only affect Alachua County, but also the globe as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.”
COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Training
Danielle Jordan, Alexis Mendes, Gabriela Perez, Julie Snow, Addison Winjum
Mentors: Sallie Shipman, EdD, MSN, RN, CNL, NHDP-BC, CNE
After working with UF Health and the FDOH to vaccinate members of the community on the UF campus, Alexis Mendes (BSN 2021) and her research group learned about the organization’s need for materials that could be used to train volunteer vaccinators, most of whom had limited experience giving vaccines.
To improve community vaccination centers, Mendes and her group created a step-by-step handout that explained each duty of the vaccinator, along with two additional handouts that detailed what to do in the event of an emergency, such as anaphylactic shock — a rare, severe allergic reaction to the vaccine.
After providing the materials to the clinic, the team completed their research project. Now post-graduation and beginning their careers, Mendes said her group hopes to design other quality improvement projects to better their own nursing units.
“I believe this project, and all of our combined efforts, really helped vaccinators perform uniform and safe vaccinations for the community,” Mendes said.
Skills to the Test
Empowering Alz’s Place and Reducing Caregiver Role Strain Through Community Outreach
Connor Hazellief, LeeAnn Hewitt, Kylie House, Lilyanna Mancuso
Mentor: Lisa Scarton, PhD, RN
Supporting Diabetes-Induced Neuropathy Innovations Through Precision Health with a Novel Dorsal Root
Mentors: Martha Campbell-Thompson, DVM, PhD, and Lisa Scarton, PhD, RN
LeeAnn Hewitt (BSN 2021) and her group were assigned to work with Alz’s Place, an adult care center in Gainesville for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or severe memory loss.
According to Hewitt, the COVID-19 pandemic put a large amount of stress on Alzheimer’s caregivers, since individuals with Alzheimer’s are at an increased risk of severe disease from the virus. Alz’s Place provides short-term relief for primary caregivers by taking in Alzheimer’s patients for a few hours, but many individuals were not aware Alz’s Place continued to operate with enhanced precautions during the pandemic.
Both materials explained the center’s amenities, such as hot meals, and how Alz’s Place followed CDC infection prevention precautions, including mask-wearing, temperature checks and frequent sanitation.
Both the team and Alz’s Place are optimistic that their community outreach efforts will increase the number of individuals seeking care from the center in the future.
“This really solidified my passion for nursing,” Hewitt said. “We were able to see firsthand the impact nurses can have on a local community and also put our creative skills to the test.”
However, this experience was not Hewitt’s first brush with research.
Under the mentorship of Lisa Scarton, PhD, RN, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing, and Martha Campbell-Thompson, DVM, PhD, a pathology core principal investigator at the University of Florida, Hewitt also designed an individual project that allowed her to develop laboratory techniques, which served her in her quality improvement project.
As a junior in the nursing program, Hewitt was inspired to begin researching how nerve cells in the spinal cord could be isolated and have the potential to be used in treatments. She developed her passion for research alongside the course of her undergraduate career.
Scarton said Hewitt’s passion and interest will help form the future of nursing research.
“By just asking questions and looking into ‘why,’ nurses can advance nursing practice, improve patient outcomes, shape health policy and make important changes,” Scarton said. “Engaging in research is vital for nurses and the nursing profession.”