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Dementia Caregiver Study Applauded by Gerontological Nursing Association: Dr. Cherie Simpson wins Judith Braun Award for Advancing the Practice of Gerontological Nursing

Posted: Feb. 6, 2014

Dr. Cherie Simpson

Cherie Simpson, PhD, MBA, RN, and
assistant professor at The University of
Texas at Austin School of Nursing

In keeping with advances made in adult gerontological research and education at The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing, Cherie Simpson, PhD, MBA, RN, and assistant professor, has been awarded the 2013 Judith Braun Award for Advancing the Practice of Gerontological Nursing through Research for “The Dynamic Experience of Dementia Caregiving,” a study with caregivers of persons with dementia.

“More than five million Americans are living with dementia,” said Simpson. “It’s no secret that the U.S. population is aging, and as it does, more people will be diagnosed with the disease, which means more people will become caregivers. Gaining a better understanding of how these individuals cope with the stress of caregiving is imperative and forms the basis of this study.”

The award followed a highly competitive podium presentation at the 28th annual convention of the National Gerontological Nursing Association (NGNA) in Clearwater, Florida on Oct. 5. 2013.

One unexpected finding in Simpson’s study showed that the caregivers’ stress levels and sleep quality improved during the study without intervention. “It led me to appreciate the phenomenon of healing presence and the benefits of comfort and a sense of being cared for as a result of being in the presence of a nurse,” Simpson said. “The nurse’s attentiveness and availability could have provided a healing environment in which caregivers could experience positive change. In short, a nurse’s presence can be a valuable tool for the caregiver in any setting.”

As a clinical nurse specialist (CNS), Simpson maintains a geriatric psychiatric practice while teaching in the UT Austin School of Nursing’s Alternate Entry Master of Science in Nursing (AE MSN) program. The program is designed for people holding baccalaureate or graduate degrees in disciplines other than nursing and who are interested in obtaining both a registered nurse license and Master’s of Science in Nursing degree.

Traditionally, clinical nurse specialists have served as educators and health-care facility administrators. Recently, their role has expanded to include more primary patient care, which is good news for the millions of people who are expected to sign up for health care as a result of the Affordable Care Act. As more patients have access to health care and fewer medical students opt for primary care practice, some experts predict a dramatic shortage in frontline, primary health care.

Aware of this growing need for primary care, many health-care experts were encouraged by the Institute of Medicine report “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health” released in October 2010, which recommended, among other things, that nurses should practice to the full extent of their education and training.

For advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), that meant being given prescriptive authority. A teaching model has been developed to ensure that licensure, accreditation, certification and education bodies were agreed on uniform qualifications for these emerging health care providers. The model, which goes into effect nationwide in 2015, calls for APRNs to be able to prescribe medications, order tests and sign treatment forms without restrictive oversight and its associated cost.

Currently only five states — Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah and Vermont — fully conform to the model. Although legislation was passed in Texas in 2013 to allow APRNs authority to order and prescribe medication, they still must provide the prescriber’s title and state-issued Rx number and show a collaborating physician’s name, address and phone number on the prescription.

“The UT Austin School of Nursing is successfully preparing more and more advanced practice nurses, such as CNSs and nurse practitioners (NPs), to step into the primary care void and deliver all-inclusive health care,” said Glenda Joiner-Rogers, PhD, CNS, and assistant professor of clinical nursing. “Because our graduates are equipped with specialties enabling them to address a variety of illnesses, central Texans are getting their health needs met and are being helped to live better lives.”

With the Judith Braun Award, the NGNA recognizes the scientific contribution of a member or team of nurses who have contributed to advancing the practice of gerontological nursing through research. The goals of the NGNA Convention are to acquire new knowledge and skills relevant to gerontological nursing education, practice, and research; inspire nurses to engage in future endeavors that promote the NGNA’s mission; and network with nursing colleagues and peers on issues of common concern.

The UT Austin School of Nursing’s Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist program includes perspectives of both health restoration and health promotion, while developing skills in case management. This concentration area focuses on physiological and psychosocial theories, concepts, and research underlying self-care and growth needs of individuals.