NEWS | June 2, 2016

UC Davis nursing graduate students showcase scholarly work at Academic Symposium


From role confusion for frontline nurses in leadership positions and challenges for school health administrators to confronting implicit bias in kindergarten and preparing seniors for emergencies, the scope of work undertaken by students at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis ranges from clinical to community, from birth to end of life.

School of Nursing graduate students Gloretha Wilcots, left, and Arnecia Lewis-Smith research implicit bias for their scholarly project in advance of completion of the nurse practitioner degree program at UC Davis. School of Nursing graduate students Gloretha Wilcots, left, and Arnecia Lewis-Smith research implicit bias for their scholarly project in advance of completion of the nurse practitioner degree program at UC Davis.

Graduate students pursuing doctoral and master’s degrees present their scholarly work at the 2016 Academic Symposium on June 3 at the UC Davis Sacramento campus. For the 59 students who earn degrees from the Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Graduate Degree Programs this year, the event represents the culmination of their studies and the final step before graduation.

“This tradition at the School of Nursing offers our graduate students the challenge to explore health within a deeper context, while broadening their perspectives on the people and communities they serve,” said Theresa Harvath, associate dean for academics at the School of Nursing. “Dissertation, thesis and scholarly project work contributes to their knowledge as researchers and practitioners, but it also forces them to see the bigger picture of our evolving health care continuum.”

First year master’s-degree leadership students will present poster presentations from their Community Connections coursework, which partners them with community agencies to develop systemwide solutions from those organizations. Those within the health system and visitors from the greater community are invited to experience how these students deliver on the school’s vision to advance nursing to become leaders in clinics, communities and classrooms.

All of the students presenting are in one of four School of Nursing graduate programs led by the Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Graduate Group, an interprofessional team of more than 60 faculty members from various disciplines. Students working toward the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership must complete a dissertation. Master’s-degree leadership students must complete a thesis and physician assistant and nurse practitioner graduate students in the school’s clinical programs conduct scholarly projects.

Projects slated for presentation at the symposium include:

“Confronting Implicit Bias: An Educational Module for Kindergarten Teachers:” Research suggests kindergarten may be fertile ground for implicit bias that unfairly targets African-American boys and feeds America’s school-to-prison pipeline. School of Nursing nurse practitioner graduate students Arnecia Lewis-Smith and Gloretha Wilcots looked at implicit bias as a public-health issue and its long-term implications on children and adults in terms of education and the criminal justice system. “Our goal is to increase self-awareness and equip teachers with a tool that will assist in their interactions with children of other races,” said Lewis-Smith, a nurse and mother of two. “The stage is set in kindergarten. If African-American boys suffer from repeated biases, they feel they no longer matter. As a health care provider, I want society to recognize and change the bias, so limits of achievement are not put on people because of their skin color.”

“An Exploratory Study of Frontline Nursing Leadership in the Acute-Care Setting:” Carel Troutman, a nurse and master’s-degree leadership student, explores how providers formalize and structure the staff nurse position with leadership and management responsibilities. Troutman collected data from 10 acute-care hospitals to gain a better understanding of how organizations and frontline leadership nurses perceive their roles. “We’ve heard a lot about bedside nursing shortage, but there’s also a looming nursing leadership shortage. I wanted to look at how we could increase and improve success as these frontline nurses transition into leadership positions,” said Troutman, a performance improvement nurse in the Trauma Program for Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. “If we can help nurses make small steps into nursing leadership it can be compounded into a larger scale into the community.” 

“Preparing seniors for When Emergency Strikes:” The Butte fire in Amador and Calaveras counties in September 2015 left a trail of destruction and lingering fears of vulnerability for those living in rural areas. As part of their Community Connections coursework, three master’s-degree leadership students at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis identify a need in Jackson, California, and develop an emergency preparedness workshop for seniors in the Amador County community. “All of our master’s-leadership students are registered nurses and most come from hospital settings,” explained Ester Carolina Apesoa-Varano, a Community Connections instructor. “Going out into community settings, to deploy skills they already have as experienced practitioners, enables them to develop new skills around leadership, collaboration and teamwork.”

“Promoting an Oral Health Program within UC Davis Student-Run Clinics:” Poor oral health correlates with many systemic ailments, such as cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases. Yet students in most health care professions report that they lack the necessary education and training to conduct basic oral exams. Physician assistant graduate student Keith Byrd hopes to spark a new enthusiasm for the topic in UC Davis student-run clinics. “The whole point was to get the students encouraged enough to see the value in continuing such a program,” Byrd said. “The patients thought it was great. It prompted conversations beyond just their exams and the patients’ excitement promoted interest in driving the program further.” The project exemplifies the school's mission to improve the availability of culturally relevant primary care to underserved populations and educate clinicians to deliver care as members of health care teams.

 “Exploring the Work of School Health Administrators in California:” Doctoral candidate Samantha Blackburn pairs her nursing profession with a passion for health promotion in schools for a qualitative study to investigate the work of a group of school health administrators in California. Blackburn, an assistant professor at the School of Nursing at California State University, Sacramento, explores their job pathways and responsibilities, factors influencing their work and how they accomplish that work with limited funding. “These individuals weather these challenges because they hold onto a greater mission around promoting children’s health and well-being. They derive joy and job satisfaction from a bigger purpose,” Blackburn said. “If we had more standardized job descriptions and consistent titles within the profession, we could give school health administrators more authority and indicate for others exactly what they do.”

Symposium events run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the Education Building, located at 4610 X St. in Sacramento. For more in-depth stories and videos of the students and their projects, click here. You can also follow the event happenings via #IAdvanceHealth on Twitter.