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New associate dean for research joins KU School of Nursing

February 13, 2019

By Kristi Birch

Barbara J. Polivka, Ph.D., RN, FAAN
Barbara J. Polivka, Ph.D., RN, FAAN

The University of Kansas School of Nursing has a new associate dean for research. Barbara J. Polivka, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, joined the KU School of Nursing on February 1.

Polivka comes to KU from the University of Louisville School of Nursing, where she had been professor and the Shirley B. Powers Endowed Chair in Nursing Research since 2012. Before that, she had been on the faculty of The Ohio State University College of Nursing since 1999.

Polivka was offered the associate dean for research position at the KU School of Nursing after a national search following the retirement of her predecessor, Marjorie Bott, Ph.D., RN., in 2018. Bott, who joined the KU School of Nursing faculty in 1990, became associate dean for research in 2003.

"Dr. Polivka is an esteemed nurse scholar and a national leader in the field of environmental health," said Sally L. Maliski, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, dean of the KU School of Nursing. "Her extensive experience will help advance the KU School of Nursing's research agenda."

After earning her bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing and Health in 1977, Polivka spent the first decade of her career as a practicing nurse. She began her academic career after earning her master of science in nursing degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1983. She earned a doctorate in nursing from The Ohio State University College of Nursing in 1990.

Polivka has published widely about environmental health, particularly in the area of how people's health may be affected by hazards in their homes, such as lead paint and chemicals found in many household products. She is currently completing a study, funded by the National Institute of Aging, on how certain environmental triggers — namely air particulates and some compounds found in cleaning products, room fresheners, paint and polishes, carpets and floor adhesives — affect older adults with asthma.

Her other main area of research is in health services. This includes devising a curriculum to train public health nurses to handle a disaster surge, which is what occurs when disasters result in a large influx of patients. She and her team also have developed a virtual simulation program, funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, to train home health professionals to identify safety hazards in patient's homes. These hazards, such as lit cigarettes, unconfined pets, or throw rugs that can cause tripping, often result in injuries to home health professionals as they handle patients and equipment in settings outside of a hospital or clinic. 

Polivka said she is looking forward to working with faculty as well as students and post-doctoral students to help them achieve their research goals, including helping them apply for grants. Her goal for the next few weeks is to meet with anyone at the school interested in doing research about their next steps, a process she enjoys. "In my previous position, much of my work was mentoring faculty, students and clinicians. I absolutely loved it," she said. "I thought I could do that even better in an administrative position like this. I was recruited for several positions, but I really liked KU, especially the interprofessional perspective."

Polivka would especially like to see more interprofessional, multidisciplinary research conducted by KU nursing school faculty and students. "I'm looking forward to advancing the research enterprise here," she said.

Last modified: Feb 13, 2019