Faculty Programs of Research

College of Nursing faculty are engaged researchers who are building the science of nursing and nursing education. Nursing faculty are teacher-scholars who integrate their research and teaching, enriching student learning experiences to prepare the practitioner-scholars of the future.


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Hospital Discharge Research  Marianne Weiss, DNSc, RN, Professor Emerita

As emeritus faculty, Dr. Weiss continues to be an active researcher extending her longstanding program of research on the contribution of acute care nurses to patient outcomes at discharge and post-discharge. This research includes the impact of nursing staffing structure and quality of discharge teaching on readiness for hospital and post-discharge return to hospital for readmission or ED visits. With my collaborators, this work focuses on intervention studies and large sample and multi-site studies of the characteristics and performance of the individual nurse, the complement of nurses within a nursing unit, and the interprofessional team in relation to patient care outcomes including inpatient mortality, patient safety outcomes, and discharge transition outcomes. 

Hospital Discharge Scales: Dr. Weiss has authored and rigorously tested 3 scales to measure nurse contribution to the discharge transition variables: Quality of Discharge Teaching Scale, Readiness for Hospital Discharge Scale, and Post-Discharge Coping Difficulty Scale. The scales have been translated into several languages.

READI Study: a 33-hospital cluster randomized trial of implementation of discharge readiness as a standard practice for hospital discharge.

Nutrition/Physical Activity Interventions for Older Adults  Kim Gretebeck, PhD, RN

Dr. Gretebeck's community-engaged research focuses on the development, implementation and translation of nutrition and physical activity interventions for diverse populations of older adults.

Physical Activity for Lifelong Success (PALS) intervention was developed, tested and evaluated by Dr. Gretebeck and her research team. PALS is now being offered as an evidence-based program through the Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging.

Effects of positive thinking, resilience and resourcefulness in overcoming adversity  Abir Bekhet, PhD, RN, HSMI

Dr. Bekhet's program of research focuses on  the effects of positive thinking, resilience, and resourcefulness in overcoming adversity across vulnerable populations that include, but are not limited to, older adults, family caregivers, and immigrants. The results of her research contribute to nursing knowledge development by providing a better understanding of the relationships among the major components of resilience theory: risk factors, protective factors, and indicators of resilience. In terms of the practical significance, the results of these studies provide direction for nurses to include strategies that strengthen positive thinking and resilience to promote the health and functioning of caregivers and other vulnerable populations. 

Structure and Processes Supporting Nurse Retention – Marilyn Bratt, PhD, RN

Dr. Bratt’s over-arching research goal is to explore practices that create a sustainable nurse workforce. She has a primary focus on studying the structure, process, and outcomes of nurse residency programs. Dr. Bratt has been instrumental in developing national standards for nurse residency programs and engaging in evaluation of those standards. Her research examines the processes of newly licensed nurse transition to practice and the influence of nurse residency programs on competency development, effective professional role socialization and retention. Dr. Bratt is particularly interested in the rural nursing workforce and studies characteristics of small rural community and critical access hospitals and rural nurses’ perceptions of care, the practice environment, and safety culture.

Pedagogical Research: Expanding and Improving Nursing Education -- Amber Young-Brice, PhD, RN, CNE

Dr. Young-Brice’s program of pedagogical research focuses on the need for transformation within the nursing discipline to develop intentional, impactful, and informed interventions that assist students and faculty with overcoming adversity to survive and thrive in the profession.  Her research is grounded in her expertise as an educator and underpinned by theories from nursing, education, and social sciences, as well as her passion for vulnerable students.

Engaging patients and their families in healthcare -- Teresa Jerofke-Owen, PhD, RN 

The nurse and patient experience of healthcare engagement in acute care settings is the focus of research by Dr. Jerofke-Owen. She specifically examines ways that nurses can engage patients and their families in their care and the associations between patient perceptions of engagement and empowerment, the patient care experience, and patient outcomes, such as length of stay and health care utilization. She has developed and validated instruments to assess patient preferences for engaging in their health care and patient perceptions of receipt of nurse-empowering behaviors.

Improving long-term outcomes of critical illness survivors -- Kelly Calkins, PhD, RN, CCRN

The aim of Dr. Calkins’ program of research is to improve the long-term outcomes of critical illness survivors. Her program focuses on post intensive care syndrome and improving the recovery experience of critical illness survivors after hospital discharge. Dr. Calkins has used qualitative methods to gain a better understanding of survivors’ perceptions of their recovery and the barriers and facilitators they encountered during their recovery. This knowledge will be used to develop and implement interventions to support survivors in the community.

Communication Among Pediatric and Adolescent Patients with Life-Threatening Illnesses, Their Families, and Health Care Clinicians -- Amy Newman, PhD, RN, CPNP-PC, CPHON

Dr. Newman’s program of research aims to enhance communication among pediatric and adolescent patients with life-threatening illnesses, their family members, and health care clinicians, particularly discussions around goals of care, values, and care preferences. Dr. Newman is specifically interested in leveraging the role of the nurse to engage in more collaborative relationships with physicians and other members of the health care team to ensure the communication needs of patients and families are met throughout the illness trajectory.

Student Leaning and Debriefing Using Simulation Pedagogy – Aimee Woda, PhD, RN, BC

Dr. Woda's program of research explores student learning and debriefing using simulation pedagogy. She continues to focus on learner outcomes in nursing education science, with the goal of making evidence-based recommendations for curricular changes.

Childhood Obesity Prevention, Interprofessional Education, Teaching Excellence –  Marilyn Frenn, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, FTOS, FAAN

Dr. Frenn's programs of research concern 4th-8th grade children and their parents to prevent obesity, using a tailored online intervention and testing a prebiotic. She has also investigated student response to interprofessional education (especially in testing instruments with acceptable estimates of reliability and validity) and has used grounded theory in prior research related both to health promotion and teaching excellence.

Breastfeeding Disparities Impacting Breastfeeding Outcomes for African American Mothers -- Karen Robinson, PhD, CNM

Dr. Robinson’s program of research focuses on racial disparities in maternal-child health. She has centered her research around breastfeeding disparities by examining breastfeeding barriers for African American mothers. Specifically, Dr. Robinson is investigating how racism, implicit bias, and discriminatory behaviors towards African American mothers negatively impact breastfeeding outcomes within this population. She has also studied the positive effects of breastfeeding peer counselors and group prenatal care on breastfeeding outcomes. Dr. Robinson’s goal is to develop culturally appropriate, mother-infant centered, interventions that will address the inequities in breastfeeding support that impede higher rates of breastfeeding among African American mothers. Dr. Robinson is skilled in qualitative methodology and her expertise has been sought for collaboration in research utilizing qualitative inquiry. Dr. Robinson also has experience with conducting systematic review, meta-analysis, and secondary analyses.

Advancing health and health care equity for adolescents and young adults living with chronic illnesses – Dora Clayton-Jones, PhD, RN, CPNP-PC

Dr. Clayton-Jones is a community engaged scholar. The aim of her program of research is to advance health and health care equity for adolescents and young adults living with chronic illnesses. Using community based participatory research (CBPR) and qualitative research methods, she engages the community and recipients of interventions in developing, implementing, and evaluating interventions that optimize self-management behaviors and health care transition readiness. Dr. Clayton Jones’s research interests include self-management of chronic conditions to include sickle cell disease, health disparities and equity, spirituality and health in adolescents, qualitative research, and community based participatory research.

Older Adults’ Social Engagement – Stacy Barnes, PhD

Dr. Barnes is a social gerontologist whose research focuses on the social connections between older adults and the community in which they live. She is especially interested in older adults’ connections to family members, informal (unpaid) caregivers, and healthcare providers.

Nurse Coaching to Keep Women Moving through Life’s Transitions – Jennifer Ohlendorf, PhD, RN  

Dr. Ohlendorf's research centers around how nurses use their health promotion skills to act as health coaches for women to promote uptake of physical activity and healthy eating behaviors during life transitions. She working to develop and test a theory-based coaching intervention helping pregnant women set their own attainable physical activity and healthy eating goals throughout all 3 trimesters. The hope is that women will set up habits that may impact their health and the health of their families. Additionally, she engages in qualitative inquiries to understand the meaning movement, exercise, and athletic endeavors like running have in the lives of women. 

Community engaged family interventions for persons with autism – Norah L. Johnson, PhD, RN, CPNP-PC

The aim of Dr. Johnson's research is the development of knowledge and interventions to decrease child challenging behaviors and improve the health of persons with developmental disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and their caregivers. She works with an interdisciplinary team as part of the Marquette Autism Initiative. She studies family care-giving stress, family functioning and quality of life as well as exercise as medicine including swimming programs for children with autism and their caregivers. Her community engaged program of research uses mixed methodology. She developed a copyrighted iPhone autism Health Care Manager app. She is also a member of the Milwaukee Pediatric Nursing Research Consortium involved in translational research, implementation evaluation, and developing and evaluating staff development curriculums for pediatric hospitals.

Nursing Education Research – Kristina Thomas Dreifuerst, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, FAAN

As a pedagogical nurse scientist, Dr. Dreifuerst's program of research is focused on expertise in reflection and becoming a reflective practitioner and includes a) developing, using, and testing innovative teaching methods to improve prelicensure and graduate students’ clinical reasoning skills to be ready for practice, and b) investigating how faculty can best be prepared to use evidence-based methods including simulation and debriefing to enhance teaching and learning.

Improving Care of Critically Ill and Mechanically Ventilated Patients – Jill Guttormson, PhD, MS, RN

Dr. Guttormson’s program of research generates knowledge and interventions to enhance patient centered care in the intensive care unit and improve patient outcomes after critical illness.  Specifically, her research is focused on a) improving symptom identification and management during critical illness b) interventions to support patient ability to communicate during mechanical ventilation c) understanding critical care nurses’ practice when caring for mechanically ventilated patients.

Nutrition, Exercise, Insulin Resistance, and Chronic Disease – Dr. Randall Gretebeck, PhD, RD

Dr. Gretebeck’s program of research focuses on the study of energy and macronutrient metabolism. His background in both nutrition and exercise physiology has resulted in a research trajectory that encompasses the measurement of metabolic responses to manipulations in both diet and exercise.  He has expertise in the assessment of energy intake and expenditure and is currently developing a novel approach using heart rate variability to assess metabolic flexibility as a screening tool for insulin resistance.  Dr. Gretebeck has recently completed a diet and exercise study investigating the role of exercise and a low carbohydrate diet on insulin resistance and prediabetes in individuals at risk for the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Health disparities and equity, depression, qualitative methods, quantitative methods, community engagement – Abiola Keller, PhD, PMH, PA-C

Reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes for adults with chronic illnesses, including depression, by engaging patients, families, and clinicians in multi-level interventions that optimize chronic disease self-management behaviors is the focus of Dr. Keller's research. She uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies and has experience working with complex health survey data such as the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care and National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys. She also conducts community-based, participatory research with community and corporate partners.

Probiotic interventions to reduce antenatal Group B Streptococcus colonization during pregnancy – Lisa Hanson, PhD, CNM, FACNM, FAAN

Dr. Hanson's program of research is on probiotic interventions to reduce antenatal Group B Streptococcus colonization during pregnancy. She also seeks to study how probiotics and prebiotics modify the maternal and infant microbiomes. This work has led her to instrument development for gastrointestinal symptom assessment. She has expertise in clinical trials (double-blind placebo-controlled RCT and quasi-experiment) and working with the Food and Drug Administration for Investigation of New Drug Applications. Her program of research involves corporate engagement and collaboration with clinical partners and she is currently funded by NIH/NICHD R21HD095320; Clinicaltrials.gov NCT03696953