Demonstrating, Leading and Contributing to Evidence-Based Practice

First Cohorts of Nursing Research Internship Program

Nurses are on the frontline of patient care and are attuned to the unique needs of patients. In recognition of this vital insight, the University of Chicago Medicine encourages nurses to pursue their clinical ideas and supports their scientific curiosity by providing resources, mentorship and training through the Center for Nursing Professional Practice and Research’s 18-month research internship program.

In February, UChicago Medicine honored the first cohort of its Nurses Using Research to Support Excellence (NURSE) Intern­ship program. Led by Cynthia LaFond, PhD, RN, CCRN-K, director of Nursing Research, Jennifer Sala, ADN, RN, staff nurse in the Adult Medical Intensive Care Unit, Susan Solmos, MSN, RN, CWCN, manager in Nursing Clinical Services, and Stephanie Cruz, BSN, RN, staff nurse in Pediatric Sedation, completed more than 40 hours of didactic train­ing that led to the development of a research proposal, Institutional Review Board approval and final presenta­tion of their work.

“I’m incredibly proud of Jenny, Susan and Stephanie for all the work they have put into researching important topics that they are passionate about and advance the level of care we can provide our patients,” said LaFond.

Through her research, Sala studied risk factors for pressure ulcer development in critically ill adults to develop evidence-based risk assessment protocols to reduce hospital acquired pressure ulcers. Solmos has gained national recognition for her quality improvement efforts and education in skin care, which is also related to pressure ulcers.

Cruz’s research focused on significant drops in blood pressure and their treatment for patients undergoing sedated MRI, with the goal of helping nurses better understand fluid management in sedated pediatric patients to decrease these hypotensive events and reduce recovery times.

The internship began in late 2015, when applications were reviewed and rated by members of the Nursing Evidence-based Practice and Research Council and Debi Albert, MSN, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, senior vice president, Patient Care Services and chief nursing officer. Along with the Center for Nursing Professional Practice and Research, Kate Vincent, PhD, RN, nurse scientist consultant; Susan Vonderheid, PhD, RN, nurse scien­tist consultant; Anne Pohlman, MSN, APN-CNS, CCRN, FCCM, and Anoop Mayampurath, PhD, research assistant professor, pediatrics, provided training and mentorship.

The first cohort from the Nurses Using Research to Support Excellence (NURSE) Internship program were honored in early 2018. From left: Debra Albert, MSN, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, Jennifer Sala, ADN, RN, Susan Solmos, MSN, RN, CWCN, Stephanie Cruz, BSN, RN, and Cynthia LaFond, PhD, RN, CCRN-K.

Post-Op ICU Handoff Tool

“We were driven to find a new solution because we needed better communication, collaboration and decision-making among team members,” said Marianne Banas, MSN, RN, CCTN, CWCN, of the post-op ICU handoff tool she helped develop in response to widespread desire among nurses for a more formal handoff process.


Marianne Banas, MSN, RN, CCTN, CWCN.

“By the time the ICU bedside nurse got the patient report, not everyone involved was present during the handoff and multiple calls were required to track down information. Handoffs from the OR to SICU are especially complex, with multiple points where communication could fall apart.”

Since implementing the checklist, the team has not only seen the patient encounter become more seamless, but use of the checklist has saved at least one patient’s life.

Two residents noticed that the patient seemed to be struggling in post-op, and by running through the checklist determined that they needed to go back to the operating room for what turned out to be an arterial bleed. The quick response of the team in utilizing the checklist made all the difference for that patient and their family.

“Checklists like this may seem simple or easy to overlook,” Banas said, “but the results we’ve seen in a short period of time speak for themselves.”

Beacon Award

UChicago Medicine uses evidence-based practices to improve outcomes and satisfaction for patients and their families.

In January, the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) received the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses’ prestigious Beacon Award for Excellence. The SICU received silver-level designation, which recognizes nurses for demonstrating an effective approach to policies, procedures and processes that engage staff and key stakeholders; evaluation and improvement strategies and good performance measures against relevant benchmarks.

Not only is the Beacon Award national recognition of the excellent patient care provided in the SICU, but also it means the world to the nurses who work there. 

Kristine Kim, MSN, RN, CCTN, CNL, day shift nurse in the SICU, says “I am so proud of our unit for receiving this award, I brag about it to our patients and their families.  I tell them how it means we have better patient outcomes.”

Nurses from UChicago Medicine's SICU attend the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses' 2018 National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition in Boston in May. From left: Peggy Z

QueseEASE PACU Trial

Jill De La Vega, BSN, RN, CCRN, is used to thinking with her nose. As a certified aromatherapist, she’s well-versed in the ways that essences from plants can be used to influence health and wellness. In her work as a PACU nurse, she regularly encountered PACU patients battling post-op nausea and she sought alternative approaches to reduce their discomfort.

“I’ve seen the positive impact of essential oils in my own life and thought I could make a difference for people at a time, after surgery, where they’re already feeling vulnerable and maybe a little nervous. The last thing they need on top of that is to also feel ill.”

De La Vega researched potential solutions. She huddled with Laura Martinez, MSN, RN, Cheryl Gilliand, BSN, RN, and Nicole Pierce, MSN, RN, nurse scientist, to launch a patient trial using QueseEase, a personal inhaler blend that combines four powerful essential oils to manage feelings of nausea.

In consultation with the nursing team, quality improvement staff and the relevant anesthesiologists, they developed a trial run that launched in February 2018 and included nearly 100 patients.

The results were positive. About 71 per cent of the patients studied reported either moderate or complete relief from post-operative nausea and vomiting. The next step is another project with a larger sample size.

Nurses from our perioperative care area are utilizing a new non-invasive treatment for patient struggling with post-operative nausea and vomiting. From left: Nicole Pierce, MSN, RN, Cheryl Gilliand, BSN, RN, Jill De La Vega, BN, RN, CCRN, Donna Morrone, BSN, RN, and Laura Martinez, MSN, RN.