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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 3, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 10
Early-Career Nursing Faculty Earn Opportunity for New Research

Three new research teams have been selected to receive pilot funding from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing Center for Collaborative Intervention Research. This year's recipients will focus on MRSA infection in mental health patients, test a health promotion strategy for low- income, minority older adults and address cancer health disparities among older, rural-dwelling African-Americans.

"Nurses are uniquely poised for collaborative intervention research since we work so closely with the populations of interest," said center director Jerilyn Allen, a professor in the School of Nursing. The center provides funding for faculty early in their research careers to conduct cross- disciplinary pilot studies that, according to Allen, "will be a springboard to larger intervention trials which contribute significantly to science and their careers as nurse scientists."

Jason Farley is an expert in the prevention and management of infectious diseases, though he began his nursing career as a mental health research nurse coordinator. "I never dreamed I would be working again with mental health populations," said Farley, who now is collaborating with nurses and physicians at The Johns Hopkins Hospital to learn more about mental health patients' vulnerability to Community-Associated Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

"This study could change the long-held belief that mental health settings present a low risk of MRSA transmission," he said.

In order to evaluate if transmission is occurring, Farley and his co-investigators plan to test patients for MRSA on admission to two psychiatric units at JHH and again when they are discharged. The team's findings could pave the way for future interventions that will help reduce risk of transmission. "We know that living with a person who has MRSA increases an individual's risk of developing an MRSA infection in the community, so it stands to reason that the same would be true in a communal health care environment," Farley said.

Sarah Szanton is exploring the effectiveness of a low-cost, low-tech approach to promoting the health of low-income minority older adults, a population at greater-than-average risk for disability and death. She and her team are building on anecdotal evidence to systematically evaluate health outcomes of ElderSHINE (Support, Honor, Inspire, Nurture, Evolve), a program that trains low-income minority seniors in mindfulness-based meditation and self-efficacy. By comparing 25 new participants randomly assigned to intervention or to social support control groups on behavioral, social and biological measures (such as stress hormones, blood pressure, heart rate, perceived stress, depression and social support), Szanton hopes to see if ElderSHINE's meditation and self-efficacy training can help improve health measures and reduce stress in a high-risk minority population of elders.

"The pilot has the potential to demonstrate a low-cost opportunity to delay the development of disability and decrease health disparities," Szanton said. "These are key issues confronting the health care system today and areas of emphasis for both the National Institutes of Health and Healthy People 2010."

Jennifer Wenzel is seeking to address cancer health disparities among rural-dwelling older African-Americans who are being treated for cancer. By developing and evaluating a train-the-trainer program to equip nurse-led community health worker teams in rural Virginia, Wenzel and her team hope to provide a culturally appropriate cancer navigation intervention for this group of individuals at risk for poorer health outcomes. "This is a truly collaborative project," Wenzel said. "We are building upon resources from communities in rural Virginia and each individual's social network in addition to drawing on the strengths of a multi-institutional team of investigators and consultants."

These pilot research awards are part of the ongoing work of the Center for Collaborative Intervention Research, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Nursing Research.


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