Wheat Ridge Ministries Funding Offers Research Opportunities

Tom Blodgett, Ph.D., RN-B.C.
Tom Blodgett, Assistant Professor of Nursing

Professors Tom Blodgett, Ph.D., RN-B.C., and Julie Brandy, Ph.D., RN, FNP-B.C., CNE, are the latest recipients of the Wheat Ridge Ministries–O.P. Kretzmann Memorial Fund for Research in the Healing Arts and Sciences. These funds allow them to pursue innovative research that will advance current practices in the healthcare industry.

Professor Brandy’s research focuses on depression in freshman college students and was selected for a poster display at the American College Health Association’s annual meeting.

According to Brandy, “The incidence of depression in college students is increasing at an alarming rate. Because early recognition of depressive symptoms can provide better outcomes for freshmen college students, they will be the ones who ultimately benefit from this project.”

As the primary investigator, Professor Brandy collaborated with Terry Kessler, professor of nursing and Kreft Endowed Chair for the Advancement of Nursing Science, and Christina Grabarek, associate dean of the Graduate School and associate professor of education. Together, they sought to gain knowledge about the experience of living with depression as a freshman college student, often a tumultuous time of transition.

During her first four years at Valpo, Professor Brandy had a dual role as a faculty member in the College of Nursing and Health Professions and a nurse practitioner at the student health center, where she encountered numerous students with depressive symptoms.

Her dissertation involved a quantitative study that found 47.87 percent of 188 college freshmen demonstrated significant depressive symptoms — significant results, yet she also realized the limitations of a quantitative study.

Brandy interviewed college freshmen, conducting a qualitative study that allows students to tell the students’ stories, an approach that accounts for the myriad of experiences different students may have. The study is now in the data analysis phase, and Brandy hopes the research can help produce a depression screening instrument specific to college freshmen. The College of Nursing and Health Professions places heavy emphasis on evidence-based practice, and this study will provide nurses and other mental health professionals a stronger evidence base for their work.

For Professor Tom Blodgett, one of the most important things the fellowship allows him to do is give a team of undergraduate nursing students the opportunity to participate in hospital-based clinical research.

Julie Brandy, Ph.D., RN, FNP-B.C., CNE
Julie Brandy, Assistant Professor of Nursing

“One of the most exciting aspects of this study is that it will show the extent to which nurses value their ability to make autonomous decisions about something they haven’t historically been able to control,” Blodgett said. “Rather than waiting for approval from someone else to discontinue a device that could cause unnecessary harm, nurses can use their own professional judgment to practice disease prevention in the hospital setting in a meaningful way.”

His research focuses on catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI), which are extremely common in hospitalized patients with indwelling catheters. The best way to prevent infections is to remove urinary catheters as soon as they are no longer medically necessary.

Using a decision-making protocol that has prior approval from the hospital’s medical staff, nurses working at the bedside can remove urinary catheters without an order. Studies have shown this approach decreases the average time patients are catheterized and decreases the risk for developing CAUTI, yet there is a lack of research into the implications for nurses and feasibility of the practice.

Blodgett and his team will seek to answer key questions from a nursing perspective — How do nurses feel about the protocols? Are they easy to use? Will they be used? The team will also refine and test the validity of a clinical tool to assess patients for signs and symptoms of CAUTI, which will help clinicians to diagnose this condition more accurately and make better decisions about when to use antibiotics for treatment of CAUTI.

The student research assistants will enroll patients into the study, collect data, assist with data-based manuscript preparation, and help answer real clinical questions using a scientific approach. This kind of opportunity is rare for undergraduates in nursing programs across the country, but with support from this funding, they are able to do it right here at Valparaiso University.

The Wheat Ridge Ministries–O.P. Kretzmann Memorial Fund for Research and Healing in the Sciences supports research related to practical applications to problems of physical, spiritual, and mental health. Grants are awarded by the president of the University upon the recommendation of the Committee on Creative Work and Research augmented by a person chosen ad hoc by the president of the Wheat Ridge Ministries.