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University of Pittsburgh Nurse Researcher Receives Grant for Studies on Mechanically Ventilated Patients

PITTSBURGH, May 1, 2000 — Leslie Hoffman, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, professor of nursing and chairperson of the acute/tertiary care department at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, and her team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh recently received a $1.1 million grant for studies on improving outcomes in mechanically ventilated patients. The grant is funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research.

"Each year, there is a substantial number of chronically ill patients who recover from illness but have difficulty regaining the ability to breathe on their own," Dr. Hoffman said. "This results in longer hospital stays , which can be quite costly, diminish the quality of life, and increase the risk of medical complications."

The study will assess whether nurse practitioners who are specially trained in caring for critically ill patients can improve outcomes of these patients and wean them off of ventilators more quickly and efficiently when compared to the standard care provided in a university setting. One group of patients will be managed by a nurse practitioner, in consultation with the attending physician; the other group will be managed by physicians-in-training, also in consultation with the attending physician. Both the nurse practitioner and the physicians-in-training will be providing similar care, which includes diagnosing problems and writing orders for the plan of care.

According to Dr. Hoffman, the goal of the study is to determine if patients can be weaned more efficiently from ventilators and if they will benefit from more constant attention given by the nurse practitioner compared to the rotational schedule used for physicians-in-training. The study also will examine what type of information is communicated to the patient and family, and whether the information shared by the nurse practitioner with the patients and their family members plays a role in the outcome of the patients.

The first part of this four-year study will be broken down into seven-month periods. During one period, the patients’ care will be managed by the nurse practitioner; the next period, patients will be managed through standard care provided by physicians-in-training who are assigned to the unit on a rotational basis. There will be a one month "wash-out" phase in between these seven-month periods to allow time for the new staff to become familiar with the opposite care approach. Only patients who are admitted and discharged within these seven-month periods will be studied.

The study also will follow the patients for one year after they are discharged to assess their quality of life and functional status and to examine economic implications of the two types of care. Measurements of lung and heart capacity also will be performed during the weaning process.

Dr. Hoffman and her team will study about 300 patients at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for their research.

Founded in 1939, the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Nursing offers a comprehensive educational program conferring undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees. Its varied programs are designed to meet the diverse needs of students interested in professional nursing education, ranging from newly graduated high school students beginning a career in nursing to experienced nurses seeking a doctoral degree for careers as nurse scientists, teachers and informatics professionals.

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