PhD, MSSW, MA
University of Tennessee
Being raised in an intergenerational, grand-parent headed household, contributed greatly to my interest in the health of older adults and the health care provided to them. As a child, I watched my grandmother care for her elderly mother in our home. When her care needs became too great for my grandmother to manage, she was placed in a nursing facility and I was a regular visitor. Later, I watched as my grandfather spent his last days in a VA medical facility. These very personal observations and experiences led me to a career in aging.
While an undergraduate I became a nursing assistant at a long-term care facility. My experience as a nursing assistant was short lived, but it opened my eyes to the physical and mental demands placed on direct care workers with limited education and awakened in me a desire to advocate for the needs of nursing home residents and employees.
Today, I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee’s College of Social Work. In addition to a doctorate, master’s degree and bachelor’s degree in social work, I also hold a master’s degree in gerontology. I have over 12 years of practice experience with older adults and their caregivers. Most notably, I was the director of social services for a sub-acute and long-term care facility for many years. Desiring to make a more significant and widespread impact on the quality of life and quality of care provided to older adults, I went on to become a nursing home surveyor and regularly surveyed nursing homes for compliance with federal and state regulations. As an academic my research is now focused on discovering ways to improve nursing home environments for residents and employees.
Based on a survey of certified nursing assistants and their training programs in one southeastern state this study will culminate in the development of a definition of effective pipeline programs for certified nursing assistants, common program components and an assessment of program outcomes. Specific outcomes of interest include: 1) recruitment, retention and subsequent employment rates; 2) participant preparation to meet the biopsychosocial needs of patients; 3) certified nursing assistant interest in career advancement into health care positions requiring additional education; and 4) barriers to career advancement. Comparisons will be made between outcomes in pipeline programs and traditional training programs without pipelines.
My New Connections Experience
After being introduced to the New Connections program at the 2010 Research and Coaching Clinic, I left feeling empowered, motivated and more confident in my ability to acquire tenure at a research-oriented university. I was impressed with the investment the program was committed to making in my career. The funding New Connections provides to support my research is only a small part of the investment they are willing to make in award recipients. Their investment in our professional development is priceless and was the determining factor in my decision to apply for the New Connections program.
While I have not been part of the New Connections program for very long, my affiliation with the program has already provided me with a reduction in teaching responsibilities so I can devote more time to my research agenda. New Connections has made investments in my professional development and broadened my network of professional relationships. As I look to the future I believe that RWJF’s investment in me through a New Connections award will be a catalyst to solidify my standing in academia, advance my research career, open the doors for future funding and lead the way for me to attain tenure.
My long-term research goal is to develop a body of knowledge that has the potential to improve the care provided to and quality of life for nursing home residents. Within this broad area, I have two specific interests. First, I am interested in identifying individual and organizational factors associated with the physical and mental health of nursing home residents. Second, I am interested in understanding how the work environment affects the well being of nursing home employees. I believe that the key to improving the quality of life in nursing homes is strongly linked to the way in which employees experience the work environment along with the knowledge and skills exhibited in their work. In the future I would like to integrate the knowledge gained from my research in these two areas into the development of interventions to improve resident and employee outcomes in nursing home environments.
- New Connections Status: Junior Investigator
- Award Year: 2011
- RWJF Team/Portfolio: Human Capital
- Project Name: An Evaluation of Pipeline Programs for Certified Nursing Assistants.