More than 140 nurses from the region attended the 6th annual nursing research conference “Leading Change Through Evidence-Based Practice” on Thursday, November 6 at Shepherd University’s Erma Ora Byrd Hall. The day-long event, sponsored by the Department of Nursing Education and the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical center, included sessions covering a variety of topics, a display of posters highlighting research, the awarding of scholarships, and a presentation by a Shepherd nursing student of research she conducted.
Margaret Kenny, a senior nursing student from Lynchburg, Virginia, presented “Current Perceptions on the Barriers Existing for Homeless Individuals Accessing Health Care.” Kenny worked with Shenandoah Valley Medical Systems to study the difficulties the homeless have in accessing health care and complying with treatment.
Kenny conducted a qualitative research study where she surveyed nurses and staff who work with the area’s homeless population about their experiences and perceptions. Kenny also spent time at local shelters and food pantries.
“Ultimately the conclusion that I came to was that it takes an incredibly unique, multi-dimensional system of care to provide what this population really needs,” Kenny said. “What I found was a lot of times these individuals will come into a health care facility and they’ll get treated and then they’ll leave. There’s no continuity of care, there’s no follow-up with those patients.”
Kenny pointed out the homeless are dealing with a variety of factors that include adverse social situations, habits, and environmental factors that impact their daily lives. She also concludes that homeless patients often feel unwelcome in the healthcare system and that discourages them from seeking and following through with treatment.
“I really came to the conclusion that it’s our job as health care professionals to remember those things, that not everybody is on the same literacy level, education level, communication level,” Kenny said.
Dr. Laura Clayton, professor of nursing, said the conference gives nursing students like Kenny the opportunity to network with professionals in the field, as well as learn the importance of evidence-based practice.
“It’s helping them learn to be the leaders and how to share the information they’ve gathered with other people. It also gives them good presentation skills,” Clayton said.
Other students were able to present their research work during the conference on poster displays that were set up throughout the lobby and hallways of the nursing building.
The best poster displays were also chosen. The winners were: Karalee Collage, Short Gap; Christopher Fogle, Martinsburg; Cynthia Starner, Hedgesville; Rebekah Swick, Moorefield; Andreia Hara, Ashburn, Virginia; Kendra Miller, Martinsburg; Roxann Rosendale, BSN, RN, Meritus Medical Center; Crystal Propst, Bunker Hill; Clint Chipinski, Shepherdstown; Katelyn Shaffer, Hedgesville; Jessica Quinn, Martinsburg; and Kelly Hare, Winchester, Virginia.
Two Shepherd nursing students, Michael Gonzalez of Harpers Ferry and Katherine Hovatter of Martinsburg, were each awarded a $300 scholarship during the conference for excellence in scholastic achievement in nursing.