Research Conference Highlights

By Eliza Joy

On Monday, the Research and Evidence-based Practice Conference, sponsored by the College of Nursing, took place in the Wilkinson Student Center. Unlike last year, when COVID-19 kept the presentations from happening in person, our nursing students got to feel a sense of community by coming together. This conference is both informative and empowering. Students get to see the very real impact they can have on nursing through participating in research.

Our first project highlight is “Direct Disclosure of Genetic Information to At-Risk Family Members and to their Primary Care Providers: A Systematic Review of the Literature.” Systematic reviews are one of the highest levels of research, essentially being literature reviews that extensively synthesize past research on a topic. In this case, it was research about how knowledge of family medical history can help patients both understand and mitigate risk for illness.

Sarah Welty, a student researcher on the project, talks about why this research is so important. “The current method for sharing genetic information to families at risk is not very effective.” A common method of communicating risk is the patient relaying information to their family members after they have testing results. But often, the information conveyed isn’t entirely accurate. Another method is to get the provider or clinician more closely involved by communicating to family members directly. Dr. Deborah Himes, the faculty researcher heading the project, says this isn’t ideal. “It’s like a big game of telephone,” she says. “Clinicians have their own language and have to put it in lay terms to talk to the patients.” Often, by the time the family members talk to their own doctor, some of the information is lost in translation. Dr. Himes and Sarah Welty also looked at the research on other methods, such as clinician-to-clinician communication.

The goal of this research project is to find the most effective way to communicate risk to family members. However, the culture in the United States makes it more difficult. In countries such as Australia and the UK, medical information that may be critical to family members is often mailed to them directly from the clinician. Dr. Himes says, “We need to help people understand that genetic information is family information.” Although privacy is a real issue, and people also have a right not to know genetic information, educating on family medical history can potentially save lives.

The second research highlight from Monday’s conference is “Undergraduate Nursing Course Project: Intimate Partner Violence and Student Empathy.” At the College of Nursing, students participate in a simulation on intimate partner violence. The simulation has students go through real-life cases that involve domestic violence. And out of respect for the victims, the simulation is silent.

Dr. Peggy Anderson, one of the researchers on the project, says, “What we wanted to see was if the simulation helped the students develop empathy and hopefully as a result, the students learned how to appropriately care for a patient or an individual who is experiencing domestic violence.”

For the study, students completed a guided reflective writing about how they felt before, during, and after the simulation. In this guided reflection, students shared how the simulation impacted them physically, mentally, and spiritually. This survey showed a significant increase in empathy. It also indicated a change in thought processes in how students will approach encounters with victims of intimate partner violence, both in a professional and personal capacity.

When asked why this research is important, Dr. Anderson shared, “Intimate partner violence exists in all communities, at all social levels.” She stresses that no matter where nurses work, they will encounter victims of abuse. “It’s pretty imperative that our students be educated about it.” In the past, healthcare providers have not recognized some of the symptoms and red flags of domestic abuse, either because of lack of understanding or bias. There’s more recently been a call for nurses to be educated on the signs of intimate partner abuse, especially from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. While many nursing programs do not include this education, Dr. Anderson is grateful that BYU does as her research demonstrates its efficacy.

Besides an increase in knowledge and empathy, students who completed the survey commented that they grew spiritually. The simulation reminded them how we are all Heavenly Father’s children and should treat each other as such, regardless of circumstances. Dr. Anderson commented on this sentiment by saying, “This is truly what the Healer’s Art is all about.”

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