Rosetta Norman never thought she would end up with a passion for research or taking care of adults. The second-semester BSN student plans to be a NICU nurse once she graduates, but joining a faculty member’s research team has opened her eyes to more career possibilities and might just change her mind about the age of her patients.
Norman is one of 30 students, many of them undergraduates, working with Associate Professor Rita Jablonski-Jaudon, PhD, CRNP, FAAN, who is leading a National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded study on reducing care-resistant behaviors during oral hygiene in persons with dementia. The study is exploring various techniques to avoid care resistance in order to effectively implement mouth care.
“This is an incredible opportunity for undergraduate students to gain research experience,” Jablonski-Jaudon said. “Active participation on a research team is an unusual and rare opportunity for BSN students and they are in a position to see cutting-edge research unfolding before their eyes. The UAB School of Nursing is unique to have active research opportunities for undergraduate nursing students.”
“I have never been involved in a research study before and Dr. Jablonski-Jaudon’s study has given me a better understanding of how clinical research is performed,” said Ryne Duren, RN, a recent graduate of the School who now works on the UAB Hospital Renal Pancreas Transplant Unit. “I loved learning how to take concepts and directly apply them to care.”
Many of the students, like Norman and Duren, had little to no experience with geriatric patients prior to the study. Jablonski-Jaudon said not only are they gaining unparalleled research experience, they are gaining insight into the rapidly growing geriatric population—something that will help the students excel as clinical and research leaders as they move into careers.
The UAB School of Nursing has recently been named a National Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence. This designation means that national experts in aging have recognized the School’s synergistic research capacity, clinical expertise, and commitment to educate nurses about the needs of geriatric patients across settings. “This research opportunity is one way of integrating geriatric research, practice and education in fulfillment of the NHCGNE mission,” noted Jablonski-Jaudon.
Norman added, “My experience has made me more aware of what happens in nursing homes. It has taught me that I would like to possibly become a researcher and help make strides in bettering health care for geriatric patients.”
Likewise, Duren said his outlook on the geriatric population also has changed. He has learned to approach dementia patients gently, to always be cognizant of their rights, and that while dementia patients may not remember your name, or what they did the previous day, “they recognize your face and you can still form a special connection with them.”
The research project is expected to conclude in February 2015.