Undergraduate research prepares future nurses

Shania Schmitz, Hands Blessing Ceremony, Chapel of Saint Joan of Arc

Last year, Dr. Kelly Calkins, an assistant professor, began researching how the coronavirus pandemic was affecting the mental health of frontline critical care nurses. She conducted qualitative interviews with a national sample of intensive care unit nurses to assess their experiences and the effects on their mental health.

As Calkins’ research entered its analysis and publication phases, her work was supported by undergraduate researcher Shania Schmitz, who reviewed the nurses’ interview transcripts, grouped similar experiences into themes, and completed the research with additional findings on improving the care of critically ill patients in the ICU.

This was Schmitz’s first dive into research. Traditionally reserved for graduate students, research opportunities are now all the rage for college undergraduates – and the experiences are proving invaluable for career and graduate school preparation.

Dr. Kelly Calkins

“To increase interest in research, it is essential to involve students in the research process. By giving undergraduate students the opportunity to do research, we help them discover their interest, foster their desire to seek new knowledge, and hopefully get more students interested in pursuing further studies. graduates, which will further elevate the nursing profession,” says Calkins.

Because Schmitz had aspired to be a critical care nurse since her freshman year, she sought out research “to begin to improve care for critically ill patients by indirectly decreasing complications and improving outcomes for them while analyzing reassuring measures “, she says.

As she prepares to graduate this spring, Schmitz admits she hadn’t planned on going pandemic. Due to her research observations, she is well aware of the challenges that await her as a critical care nurse. Still, she is more than encouraged to pursue other research opportunities after graduation.

“My research efforts indirectly influence critically ill patient outcomes and provide nurses with evidence-based interventions,” she says. “I find it incredibly rewarding to contribute to my future profession by raising awareness of the effects of COVID-19 not only on patients, but also on nurses. »

—Sarah Koziol, Arts ’92


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