Nurse Researcher uses Mobile Cell Phones to Improve the Sexual Health of African Americans
Dr. Cornelius has been interested in HIV research for more than two decades. She began her journey with this area of research in the late 1980s. As a registered nurse, she saw many patients live and die with HIV infection disease. As a result of the personal stories that patients shared with her about how they were treated (with disdain) by health professionals, she vowed then to launch a research plan with the goal to change attitudes and behaviors of her colleagues and students. Her development of a focused research plan helped her to realize that she needed additional education and training to address this important work. Therefore, in 2000 she enrolled into a PhD in Nursing program at Rush Medical Center/Rush University in Chicago, Illinois. Her dissertation research examined “the effectiveness of an experiential learning method on baccalaureate nursing students' knowledge, attitudes, willingness, and perceived preparedness to provide care to HIV seropositive individuals.” After completing her doctoral studies, she pursued a Post Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. At the University of Penn, she studied two years with Dr. Loretta Jemmott, a renowned HIV prevention nurse researcher and scholar. It was at this time, that she began to listen more to the voices of African American parents, grandparents, adolescent children and grandchildren. The stories were the same, “We need help to teach our children how to protect themselves from becoming infected with the virus that causes AIDS.”
Mobile Cell Phone Text Messaging Project
Dr. Cornelius’ NINR, R-21study, funded in the amount of $396,000 in 2008, focused on using mobile cell phone text messages to deliver safer sex information to adolescents. Using focus groups’ methodology, Dr. Cornelius found that African American adolescents, (13 to 18 years of age) were not only receptive to the idea of using text messaging to receive safer sex information but they also wanted to receive 1 to 3messages per day during the hours of 4-6pm. Because of these ground-breaking findings from this research, the idea was recognized by Dr. Pat Grady at NINR and was cited in an ABC news release as a “cutting edge project with African American youth.”
BART Text Messaging Project
In 2010, Dr. Cornelius developed a second study titled, Becoming a Responsible Teen (BART) Text Messaging Project. This project involved development of a website, recruitment of a Teen Advisory Committee, and conduction of a pilot feasibility study with 40 adolescents. The project also involved enhancing the Becoming a Responsible Teen (BART) HIV prevention curriculum with text messaging boosters. The results of that study are encouraging. The project website (Bart.uncc.edu) was viewed by unique visitors in over 61 different countries. Participants in the BART Text Messaging project responded 100% of the time on 20 days, 91-99% on 46 days, 81-90% on 18 days and equal to and less than 80% on 7 of the 91 days. Participants wrote positive comments about the text messaging process. One wrote, “I love this program and hope that it can continue. We need to continue educating youth about HIV. I hope that I can be a teacher on the advisory board next time." Another wrote, “I really did enjoy this program and if another program came around like this one, I would really love to be a part of it because I learned a lot. I've learned that it is okay to be around somebody with AIDS.” One teen wrote, “Good job with the text messages and the project. Keep up the good work.”
Trends were seen toward less reported unprotected sexual intercourse experiences (vaginal, oral and/or rectal) over time. At baseline, incidents of unprotected sexual intercourse were reported 31 times; immediately posttest was reported 19 times and at the 3-month follow up, was reported 9 times. The results of this study have provided data for a randomized controlled trial, which Dr. Cornelius is currently seeking funding.
Dr. Cornelius’s BART Text Messaging project is being replicated by the Knox County Health Department, in Knoxville, Tennessee. The goal of this project is to reach 400 participants with safer sex information during the first year of funding. To date, the results of the project are promising.
Safer Sex App for African American Women
Dr. Cornelius is continuing to explore the receptivity of African Americans to mobile cell phone applications. She recently received funding from the School of Nursing Directors award to conduct a pilot study to examine the receptivity of African American women to a safer sex application. Preliminary data indicate that African American women could benefit from a safer sex application (app) to improve their sexual health. She also hopes to expand her research to transgender women and families.
In summary, Dr. Cornelius has shown impressive scientific leadership, creativity and productivity in her research on reducing the risk of HIV infection among African Americans adolescents. She has published her work in distinguished journals such as Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing, and Journal of Cultural Diversity. Her research that focuses on “the integration of mobile cell phone technology to deliver safer sex messages about HIV prevention to African American at risk women and adolescents” is cutting-edge and contributes to positive health outcomes for African American youth.
One year after earning her associate’s degree in nursing, Maren Coffman, Ph.D., R.N., embarked on a mission to Venezuela for religious reasons. She wasn’t practicing health care at the time, but what she learned on that journey decades ago formed the foundation of a career she has dedicated to improving the health of Latinos in her own country.
“While I was there I lived with the people, I ate the food, I soaked up the customs,” she says. “I really loved everything about it, and when I returned home I sought out opportunities to speak the language and take care of the people.”
After she returned to the United States, she had many opportunities to work with the Latino population. Coffman was offered a job as a home health care nurse in Hartford, Conn., home to a large concentration of Puerto Ricans. She took it—and kept it for nearly a decade. During that time, Coffman spent her days knocking on the doors of her Latino patients and treating them in their homes and in their language. “It was a lot like serving in the mission,” she recalls.
Coffman went on to earn a doctorate from the University of Connecticut in nursing and then joined the faculty of the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, N.C. An assistant professor working with undocumented immigrants in the heart of an emerging immigrant gateway city, Coffman has kept her focus on improving the health of Latinos and narrowing health disparities between non-Hispanic Whites and Latinos.
A competitive grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is helping her do that. Two years ago, Coffman was named an RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar. The program gives junior faculty who show outstanding promise as future leaders in academic nursing three-year $350,000 awards to conduct research projects.
Coffman Designs Teaching Method to Improve Health Literacy
For her project, Coffman is designing an intervention to improve health literacy—the ability to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services—among Latinas with diabetes. That disease hits Latinos nearly twice as often as non-Hispanic Whites. But because most Latinos are new to Charlotte, many have not found ways to access the health care system effectively, Coffman says. Lack of access to health care for people with diabetes can be devastating; high blood sugar levels can lead to vein damage, vision loss, kidney disease, amputation, stroke and heart disease.
“We’ve got this population of individuals who have chronic diseases but aren’t getting health care, and too often if they do it’s in the emergency department,” Coffman says. “I want to find ways to help this population access the health care system so they can manage the disease.”
At the onset of her project, Coffman used local Latino churches, community service agencies, and Spanish language newspapers and radio to reach people interested in participating in her study. She then enrolled study participants in a 10-week health literacy course that covered diet, physical activity and disease prevention and management. Instead of relying on the traditional didactic—or Socratic—teaching method, students in the course take a more active role in the learning process by reading, writing and engaging in critical discussion. She is now enrolling a second cohort of students.
The project is not yet complete, but initial results are encouraging. After the course, she says, the first cohort had lower blood sugar levels and an increase in health literacy.
When she completes her current project, Coffman plans to explore other applications for this intervention, perhaps among Latinos with chronic disease such as congestive heart failure or hypertension, or among other vulnerable populations, like Blacks. She also hopes to conduct a larger study.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar program aims to strengthen the academic productivity and overall excellence of nursing schools by developing the next generation of national leaders in academic nursing. Supporting nurse faculty will help curb a severe shortage of nurse educators that threatens to undermine the health and health care of all Americans.
Originally Published: Aug 29, 2011 on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website, at http://www.rwjf.org/humancapital/product.jsp?id=72770.
Mary Nies, Carol Grotnes Belk Endowed Chair in Nursing, was inducted into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame, at the 22nd International Nursing Research Congress on July 14, 2011.
“Dr. Nies’ selection into the Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame by Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing was a significant acknowledgement of her exceptional research,” said Jane Neese, Associate Dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “As the Carol Grotnes Belk Endowed Chair in Nursing, Dr. Nies is a leader in our college, and we are proud that she was honored for her work.”
Through funding from the National Institute of Health and other foundations, Nies has focused on health promotion across the lifespan for vulnerable populations. She is the author of the textbook “Community/Public Health Nursing” and a member of Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society. In addition, Nies is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and the Academy of Health Behavior. She completed a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her master’s degree and doctorate are from Loyola University Chicago and the University of Illinois, Chicago, respectively. She is also currently the Principal Investigator on the grant "Physical Activity Preferences for Low-Income Sedentary Urban African American Older Adults" funded as the Anne Zimmerman Scholar by the American Nurses Foundation.
Nies was one of 15 honorees recognized during the Sigma Theta Tau’s 22nd International Nursing Research Congress in July. Sigma Theta Tau International, the honor society of nursing, is a nonprofit organization; its mission is to “support the learning, knowledge and professional development of nurses committed to making a difference in health worldwide.”
Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame inductees are selected based upon their demonstrated long-term impact as nurse researchers and their funded program of research on patient/family outcomes, community wellness and/or health care policy nationally and/or internationally; their influence as a mentor/role model for students, faculty and practicing nurses; and their recognition as scholars/leaders in research nationally and/or internationally.