posted September 23, 2008

Nursing Research Project Wins National Award

A nursing research project led by Dr. Susan Dunn of the Hope College faculty and focused on the recovery of heart patients has won this year's "New Investigator Award" presented by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR).

The award was presented on Saturday, Sept. 20, during the AACVPR's national annual meeting, held in Indianapolis, Ind.  A total of six projects selected for oral presentation during the meeting had been nominated.  The award is given to a scholar making a first-time presentation at the meeting.  Selection for the award is based on the quality and significance of the research and the presentation.

The Hope project focused on the recovery of patients who were hospitalized for a coronary heart disease event, and examined the origins of the symptoms of hopelessness that persist in some patients for up to eight months later.  Such hopelessness, noted Dunn, who is an associate professor of nursing and chairperson of the department, is related to lower physical functioning and also poorer rehabilitation exercise participation in recovering patients.

Dunn and the research team developed a scale to determine whether the symptoms of hopelessness are a response to the cardiac event, which they called "state hopelessness," or were a patient's habitual outlook toward life, called "trait hopelessness."  They then tested the scale in the summer and fall of 2007 with a sample of 70 cardiac rehabilitation patients.

The researchers were encouraged by the results.  The scale, Dunn said, was found to be valid and highly reliable for the test group.

Approximately one-third of the patients in the study exhibited state hopelessness and one-third exhibited trait hopelessness, while 25 percent of the patients exhibited both state and trait symptoms.  The study also indicated that trait makes a difference to state.  "The amount of decline in state hopelessness was significantly larger in patients who had lower trait hopelessness levels at one to two weeks, than among those with higher trait hopelessness levels," Dunn said.

Dunn emphasizes that the study is a first step.  She explains, for example, that the scale next needs to be tested with a larger and more diverse sample.  She also believes that the effect of state and trait hopelessness on how well patients recover needs further study.

Titled "Development and Testing of a New State-Trait Hopelessness Scale for Use with Patients with Coronary Heart Disease," the Hope project abstract has also been published in the July/August 2008 issue of the "Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention."  In addition to Dunn, the co-authors are Dr. Nathan Tintle, assistant professor of mathematics and Towsley Research Scholar at Hope; Emilie Dykstra, a 2008 Hope graduate and nursing major who participated in the project as a research assistant; and Sue Hulst and Sheryl Mulder, registered nurses at Holland Hospital.

Founded in 1985, the AACVPR represents 3,000 healthcare professionals worldwide engaged in education, prevention, rehabilitation, research and disease-management activities in cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation and prevention programs.  The association provides professional-development and educational opportunities for its members to uphold its central goal of improving the quality of life for patients and families.

The AACVPR Annual Meeting, held on Thursday-Sunday, Sept. 18-21, this year, is a four-day event for healthcare practitioners to exchange knowledge regarding cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation.  The meeting program provides education and training on the scientific principles, the latest techniques and advances, and the new challenges affecting rehabilitation today.