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KU Nursing students chosen to participate in annual Kansas Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol

KU School of Nursing students presented research projects ranging from maternal health to elderspeak.

Interior of the Kansas Capitol rotunda
On Kansas Undergraduate Research Day, up to 40 undergraduate students, selected from each of the state’s eight four-year public institutions, present their research to lawmakers and other state officials.

Shy’Anna Tyler has been interested in newborn babies and their mothers since she was a child growing up in Topeka. As an adult, that interest has deepened. “Being an African-American woman, I know that poor birth outcomes are more prevalent in minority populations compared to white women,” said Tyler.

Earlier this month, Tyler, a senior at the University of Kansas School of Nursing, presented research to Kansas legislators and other state officials examining racial and ethnic differences for pregnancy anxiety and depressive symptoms in women and their relationship to pregnancy complications, preterm birth and low infant birth weight.

Tyler was one of five KU nursing students who participated in the Kansas Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol held March 1. At this annual event, up to 40 undergraduate students, representing each of the state’s eight four-year public institutions, present their research to state lawmakers and other government representatives in Topeka.

The event showcases the unique opportunities that undergraduate students have to participate with faculty members in research at state institutions and also underscores higher education’s role in developing citizens with the skills necessary to further the economic growth of Kansas.

The event was held virtually this year, as it has been since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with participants submitting videos of poster sessions about their research to legislators and other members of state government. Those videos were available online for viewing on March 1, and live question-and-answer sessions were held that day as well.

All five participating KU nursing students are in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) honors program, which gives motivated juniors and seniors the opportunity to conduct research under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Tyler was mentored by Karen Weis, Ph.D., FAAN, professor at KU School of Nursing-Salina, when she conducted her neonatal research.

Camille Henderson, a senior from Mission, Kansas, investigated the other end of the life spectrum. Henderson’s first job in health care was as a CNA at a memory care facility, where she enjoyed working in that setting with that specific population.

Mentored by Kristine Williams, Ph.D., FAAN, professor at KU School of Nursing, Henderson investigated the impact of elderspeak on people with dementia when it comes from a family member. Elderspeak, the inappropriate use of overly simplistic speech or babytalk to communicate with people who are older, can erode older adults’ self-esteem and actually decrease comprehension.

“I have enjoyed researching elderspeak and learning about how to better communicate with my patients, and it is my hope that someday this information will be more widely known across all care settings,” Henderson said.

Sophia Schneller, a senior from Overland Park, Kansas, analyzed findings from a case study on an adolescent with cystic fibrosis (CF) and concluded that adolescents with CF need more preparation for gaining independence during their transition from pediatric to adult CF care.

“I wanted to help facilitate a better transition from pediatric to adult care, especially for those with a chronic condition,” said Schneller, who was mentored by Becky Christian, Ph.D., FAAN, professor and director of the Ph.D. program at KU School of Nursing. “I appreciated being able to advocate for this patient population, as I feel it is significant to the people of Kansas and around the United States.”

The two other BSN honors program students participating in research day at the Capitol were:

  • Hanna Mouak, senior from Mulvane, Kansas, mentored by Barbara Polivka, Ph.D., FAAN, associate dean for research at KU School of Nursing: “COVID-19 and Adults with Asthma”
  • Mallory Peterman, senior from Overland Park, Kansas, mentored by Laura Klenke-Borgmann, Ph.D., clinical associate professor at KU School of Nursing: "The Long-Term Transferability of Learning via In-Class Simulations to Nursing Practice: A Qualitative Descriptive Study”

The KU School of Nursing BSN honors program is co-coordinated by Becky Christian, Ph.D., FAAN, professor and Ph.D. program director, and Ericka Sanner-Stiehr, Ph.D., education specialty coordinator and clinical assistant professor.

View Presentation Recordings

Watch each of the five students who participated in Kansas Undergraduate Research Day share their research presentations in these recordings:

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