Taking Obesity Down to Size

Monica AllemanMonica Alleman was floored when her idea for fighting childhood obesity—educating clinicians in specific counseling skills so patients can discover their own solutions—was broadcast on Louisiana’s nightly news and featured in a press release by her university. Fellow nurse practitioners sent congratulations via Facebook and email, and doors to new clinics and conferences were opened. Alleman’s research and the media’s attention to it stemmed from a grant from the 2012 scholarship funding cycle.

“I cannot tell you how much winning the grant changed my life,” says Alleman, who graduated from Loyola as a Doctor of Nursing Practice.  “It’s amazing that I have been able to do what I love to help eliminate healthcare disparities and that my professional organizations support me in doing so.”

Using skills borrowed from motivational interviewing (MI), Alleman educated health care professionals at the John Ehret High School in Marrero, Louisiana how to encourage rather than command children to lose weight. Research shows that obese patients change their food consumption and exercise habits if they have ownership over these changes. If children are asked, for example, about what helped them in the past, they are more likely to make long-term, healthier choices. It is also important that these conversations between clinicians and patients are judgment-free.

“The education I provide [to health care practitioners] is intended to expose participants to the concept of MI, how using MI can help change the conversations with patients regarding behavior change, and the evidence about why changing our conversations is so important,” says Alleman. “We can more effectively engage patients in healthy living, and I believe it’s by us the providers changing how we communicate with our patients.”

The digital presentations Alleman developed and the training DVDs purchased were a result of her clinical research and can be broadly applied at a local level, helping fight childhood obesity and other long-term health concerns.

Combating Compassion Fatigue

Kate Sheppard professional photoKate Sheppard, PhD, RN, FNP, PMHNP, FAANP, remembers sitting in a seminar with doctoral student colleagues and faculty, sharing thoughts and ideas about research topics. She proposed that nurses are vulnerable and are at high risk for leaving the profession, and some of the faculty immediately said, “Don’t go there Kate, no one cares about nurses.” She wanted to say, “Exactly my point!”

In 2012, Dr. Sheppard was awarded the ANPF Fellows Giving Circle Grant for her project “Incorporating Compassion Fatigue into Nurse Practitioner Curriculum.” With her work in this area, she feels she has made quite a bit of progress since that meeting. In fact, she recently was invited to discuss compassion fatigue at Nursing Grand Rounds at the University of Arizona Medical Center and was thrilled to see that it was standing room only at her talk. She realized that nurses truly want to understand compassion fatigue.

Because of her work, and through the financial support of the ANPF grant and of the University of Arizona College of Nursing, she was able to develop a program to incorporate compassion fatigue into DNP curriculum. NP students participating in the study became increasingly responsive to a journaling activity, and through other elements and exercises designed to improve compassion fatigue effects, the study participant moved away from leaving the profession or their studies to progress as NPs.

NP Completes Pediatric Cardiac Training

Caitlin O'Connell headshotWith the financial assistance provided by an MSN-NP Scholarship in 2012, Caitlin O’Connell was able to participate in a training program at Boston Children’s Hospital’s pediatric cardiac surgical step-down unit. There, she cared for medically fragile newborns, children, adolescents, and young adults who have recently undergone open-heart surgery. She was able to learn about how to help the patient and their caregivers navigate through the overwhelming experience, and to provide competent, compassionate, and comprehensive care.

Without the scholarship, she might not have returned to school to complete this program. The education and clinical experiences she had will make her a more proficient and well-rounded clinician and will help her succeed in her position.

Currently, she continues to work full time as a nurse practitioner on the pediatric cardiac surgical step-down unit at Boston Children’s while continuing her DNP studies. Ultimately, she wants to focus her studies on improving the discharge process for pediatric patients and their families.

DNP Awardee Impacts Diabetes Education

Arends RobinWith the ANPF Doctoral Scholarship that Robin Arends won in 2012, she was able to look deeper into the aspects of running a clinic, knowledge vital for understanding the budgetary decisions that impact outcomes for her patients. With her Doctoral project entitled “Diabetic Education Intervention for Low-Income Patients with Type II Diabetes,” Ms. Arends was able to meet with Certified Diabetic Educators and Dietitians to create a nutrition education packet for adults with Type II Diabetes. Her project, implemented at a Community Health Clinic for homeless, uninsured, and underinsured patients has the potential to improve health outcomes by lowering HgbA1C in this vulnerable population. The ANPF scholarship helped her achieve her goal of graduating with her DNP degree in August, 2014. Her goal is to use the information gained through the completion of her degree to initiate other practice improvement projects that have been identified by the clinic as high priority.