Nursing Advisory Council raises record amount for UT Health Science Center research, education

SAN ANTONIO (May 5, 2015) ―Thanks to nearly $42,500 from the Nursing Advisory Council, six faculty researchers from the School of Nursing at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio are conducting cost-efficient research on a wide range of projects that address significant questions in patient care.

For example, one project addresses a 2014 national patient safety goal of the Joint Commission that mandates improvement in the safety and management of patient alarm systems in hospitals. Persistent false alarms often result in “alarm fatigue,” in which nurses do not notice alarms going off or disable them in order to complete other patient duties. The study aims to find solutions to this problem.

Another study seeks to learn why so many South Texas Hispanic women do not get cervical cancer screenings. Hispanics in South Texas have both the highest incidence of cervical cancer and the highest death rate from the disease not only in Texas, but in the nation. The disease can be detected by a simple Pap smear.

More than $80,000 total will benefit School of Nursing

The $42,500 in research funding is in addition to two $5,000 scholarships for nursing faculty members seeking their Ph.D.s, and more than $30,000 in scholarships for new nursing students entering the fall 2015 accelerated bachelor’s degree program at the School of Nursing. Much of the funding was raised through the NAC spring luncheon.

“All together, this is a record amount of more than $80,000 raised by the Nursing Advisory Council for our School of Nursing,” said Eileen T. Breslin, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing.

“This is an investment in patient care for San Antonio and South Texas,” she continued. “I am extremely grateful for the leadership and commitment of these community members to our School of Nursing. The NAC has been most aptly led by Nancy Loeffler. Under her leadership, investment in student scholarships and faculty research has been unprecedented.”

Crying ‘wolf!’

Regarding the patient-safety issue with clinical alarms, “Recent research shows the excessive number of false alarms and alarms that do not require nurse response (64 percent to 99.6 percent) from monitors leads to a phenomenon called alarm fatigue. Nurses are having to respond to an average of 150 to 400 alarms per patient per day in intensive care units and, more startlingly, are ignoring or inappropriately turning off alarms,” explained Azizeh Sowan, Ph.D., the principal investigator of the $10,000 NAC grant.

“The Joint Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration attribute fatal alarm-related incidents to alarm fatigue,” added Dr. Sowan, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Restoration & Care Systems Management.

The project will take place in the University Health System Center for Simulation using simulation manikins instead of human patients. Thirty nurses who work in four intensive care units at University Health System will participate in the study. Led by Dr. Sowan, the study will examine usability issues with patient monitors in order for nurses to better manage them along with their other patient-care duties. Dr. Sowan plans to calculate the time required by nurses to manage the monitors, examine catastrophic safety errors related to monitor use and assess nurses’ satisfaction with the monitors at the end of the study.

“We hope this will add to the body of research knowledge and will lead to better alarm management and fewer deaths due to alarm fatigue in hospitals locally, nationally and internationally,” Dr. Sowan said.

Supporting cervical cancer screenings

With her study, Bertha “Penny” Flores, Ph.D., RN, WHNP-BC, wants to find out why so many Hispanic women in South Texas do not get Pap smears to detect cervical cancer. “Hispanic women in South Texas are a high-risk group for cervical cancer and there are many deaths in this region due to cervical cancer. Culture, language and health literacy may contribute to the lower screening rates,” she said.

One possible cultural barrier could be a lack of male support for the screenings, said Dr. Flores, an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Health Systems.

Dr. Flores’ $6,700 grant will allow her to conduct focus groups with Hispanic and non-Hispanic men at community centers in San Antonio to gain better insight into the men’s health literacy and perception of their female partner’s cervical cancer risks and prevention practices.

“Once we better understand where men stand with their knowledge of cervical cancer and what is necessary to prevent it, we can use these findings to develop culturally appropriate materials to educate Hispanic men about the disease and how they can help encourage their wives to get screenings,” Dr. Flores said.

Other researcher projects recently funded by the NAC include:

• M. Danet Lapiz Bluhm, Ph.D., RN, “Consequences of Prenatal Maternal Stress Exposure to a Super Typhoon,” $10,000;

• Darpan I. Patel, Ph.D., “Impact of a Home-Based Exercise Program on Prognostic Biomarkers in Men with Prostate Cancer,” $10,000;

• Frank Puga, Ph.D., and Janis Rice, M.S.N., RN, “Increasing Cultural Competency in Nursing Students through an International Learning Experience,” $4,287; and

• Rozmin B. Jiwani, Ph.D., “Cardiovascular Health Behavior Interventions for South Asians: A Systemic Review,” $1,500.

Faculty members who received the $5,000 scholarships include:

• James Cleveland, M.S.N., RN, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Health Restoration and Care Systems Management and director of the Center for Clinical Innovation; and

• Herlinda Zamora, M.S., RN, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Health Restoration and Care Systems Management.

Formed in 1983, the NAC is a community group that supports the School of Nursing by providing financial support; advocating for the role of nursing in clinical, education and research; acting as a link from the School of Nursing to the community and private donors; supporting School of Nursing events and activities; and building relationships to attract, support and retain outstanding students, faculty, staff and administrators. For more information about how to join the NAC visit


The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 13 percent of academic institutions receiving National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced more than 31,000 graduates. The $787.7 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit

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