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APSU nursing students partner with Tennova to showcase research findings

APSU School of Nursing students with their research posters at Tennova Healthcare - Clarksville.
APSU School of Nursing students set up research posters at Tennova Healthcare - Clarksville.

(Posted on Wednesday, April 26, 2023)

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - Austin Peay State University’s School of Nursing students are aiming to shape the future of health care, and they presented their ideas to the community April 24 at Tennova Healthcare during the program’s annual research poster day.

Approximately 265 students worked in small groups to identify clinical problems or issues, develop plans for improvement and draw conclusions on expected outcomes. Topics ranged from conditions like hypertension and mental illness to concepts like burnout and implicit bias in nursing.

“Our students need to show what they’re capable of doing and how they can be such difference-makers in health care today,” said Dr. Eve Rice, director of Austin Peay’s School of Nursing. “Whether that’s in Clarksville, Tennessee or New York City doesn’t matter - they’re the ones who are going to take care of you and I one day, so getting out in front of community leaders, patients and the staff here at this hospital makes all the difference.”

The School of Nursing has traditionally hosted research poster day in the Morgan University Center, but Rice said they began partnering with Tennova last year to allow students to reach the medical community directly.

“I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to join forces and collaborate with the students,” said Michelle Dickerson, chief nursing officer at Tennova Healthcare – Clarksville. “It lets them show us what they’re working on through quality pieces and presentations. We bring our staff and directors down here and we want them to be a part of it … this is just a good collaboration for us on all levels.”

Presenters set up near the hospital’s main entrance throughout the day, and many of them were able to connect with patients and answer questions about their research topics.

“Last semester we were in a room where we didn’t have a lot of patients and community input, but this time several patients walked down and asked us questions,” senior nursing major Jessica Sheets said. “We actually had one who recognized the medication on our poster and said ‘I take that,’ and we were able to explain why it’s helpful.”

Sheets and her group presented their research on atherosclerosis, a form of arteriosclerosis caused by the buildup of fat and cholesterol in the arteries. That reduces their elasticity, which can restrict blood flow and lead to complications such as stroke, swelling and kidney problems.

“Atherosclerosis is really prevalent across different age groups, so we want to educate people on how to prevent or manage complications,” sophomore nursing major Briendl Tabuso said. “Most of the issues that stem from complications are because of a lack of information … so we want to raise awareness and hopefully help patients and health care professionals.”

Sheets said a proper diet is one of the most effective ways to prevent atherosclerosis, and many of the other groups presented on topics related to improving nutrition.

“Our research, specifically, is on minerals,” junior nursing major Tabetha Gay said. “That’s part of a nutrition project that we’re doing, and it’s very important because there are a lot of people with mineral deficiencies that they may not be aware of and we wanted to bring light to that.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vitamins and minerals are essential for healthy development, disease prevention and wellbeing. However, only vitamin D is produced naturally in the body, so the amount of micronutrients an individual receives depends largely on their diet.

Gay said she enjoyed the opportunity to highlight the dietary importance of minerals within the community, and that the nursing students were also highly supportive of each other’s work.

While many students focused their presentations on physical and mental health conditions, others explored concepts related to the larger nursing industry. Senior nursing major Monique McCalla said she wanted to raise awareness of how implicit biases can impact an individual’s quality of care.

The American Psychological Association defines implicit bias as a negative attitude against a particular social group that one is not consciously aware of, thought to be shaped by experience and based on learned associations.

“When we’re going out there we should check our biases at the door, and it’s important for us to be able to recognize others’ biases as well,” McCalla said. “I’m Black and I’ve experienced things like this, so going into hegemonic [culture] is really important – and implicit bias is one of the biggest [factors].”

Rice said the students excelled in their presentations, and that the School of Nursing plans to continue its partnership with Tennova so students can build connections and share their work within the health care industry. 

“It’s a very positive experience to see the future of health care here today,” said Drew Emery, CEO of Tennova Healthcare – Clarksville. “We’re excited for the partnership and where it could go, and it’s always great to see new folks entering the profession.”