College of Nursing Researchers Awarded $2.9 Million in Grants from the National Institutes of Health

Six University of Florida College of Nursing researchers received nearly $3 million in combined funding awards to support their scholarship from divisions of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

After success in the first phase of their study entitled “UF EHR Clinical Data Infrastructure for Enhanced Patient Safety among the Elderly,” or “UF-ECLIPSE,” multiple principal investigators (MPIs) Ragnhildur Bjarnadottir, PhD, MPH, RN, assistant professor in the College of Nursing, and Robert Lucero, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, associate professor in the College of Nursing, have been awarded a non-competing continuation of their $2.5 million grant from the National Institute on Aging at the NIH.

In the initial phase of their research, Bjarnadottir and Lucero, along with their interdisciplinary team comprised of researchers across multiple UF departments and disciplines, received over $400,000 for a two-year period to investigate fall risk factors found in clinical data such as nurses’ notes. This award provides an additional $2.1 million for the three-year R33 phase of their original five-year award granted by the NIH in 2019, “Advancing Interdisciplinary Science of Aging through Identification of Iatrogenic Complications: The UF EHR Clinical Data Infrastructure for Enhanced Patient Safety among the Elderly (UF-ECLIPSE).”

The new phase of Bjarnadottir and Lucero’s research will expand their work to investigate critical risk factors for patient complications and also implement machine learning into the UF Health Integrated Data repository to identify keywords or patterns in nurse progress notes that may indicate if an individual is vulnerable to falls or hospital-induced delirium. The MPIs hope the grant continuation will support future research related to patient safety and also help serve as a model for health care organizations nationwide to provide safe, effective care for hospitalized elderly patients.

College of Nursing Associate Professor, Miriam O. Ezenwa, PhD, MSN, BSN, RN, FAAN, received an administrative supplement grant from the National Institute for Nursing Research and the National Institute on Aging in support of her original R01 grant, “A Stress and Pain Self-management m-Health App for Adult Outpatients with Sickle Cell Disease,”.  The one-year $381,000 grant will help Ezenwa and her team understand if perception of pain may be influenced by a genetic component for patients with sickle cell disease who are also affected by cognitive impairments like dementia caused by injuries to their blood vessels.

Ezenwa’s research group will examine differences in the way these individuals express genes controlling haptoglobin, a protein produced by the liver used to remove another protein that is toxic to the human body. If patients with a specific haptoglobin genotype are found to have worse pain and higher rates of undetected vascular dementia than those without it, Ezenwa believes her research may help drive personalized therapies for sickle cell disease patients in the future.

Principal investigators Gail Keenan, PhD, RN, FAAN, R. Murray and Annabel Davis Jenks Endowed Professor and chair of the Department of Family, Community and Health System Science; Tamara Macieira, PhD, RN, assistant professor; and Yingwei Yao, PhD, research associate professor; received the go-ahead to complete the first phase of a five-year R21/33 grant that will for the first time make standardized nursing care plan data available in a large data repository known as a trust. The team will develop and test a novel, reusable method for extracting and standardizing nursing care plan data from the electronic health records (EHR) of two large health systems, as well as integrating it into the OneFlorida Clinical Research Consortium and Data Trust for use in multidisciplinary studies.

The two-year, initial phase of the study “Harmonizing and Integrating Nursing Data into Multidisciplinary Datasets to Evaluate Hospital Care and Readmissions of Older Adults with Alzheimer’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias,” was awarded $417,000 by the National Institute on Aging. When fully funded, the research team will receive a $2.6 million total award. In this stage of their research, the group plans to expand the infrastructure and current data capabilities of the OneFlorida Data Trust, a regularly updated repository of statewide health care data and a partner of the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network (PCORnet), by including nursing care plan data gathered by bedside caregivers. 

The team will then use nursing and other EHR data from the expanded OneFlorida Data Trust to explore the potential factors that contribute to hospital readmissions for older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease-related dementias. Once this study is complete, the team believes their new method will allow other health care systems to add nursing care plan data to major health care data trusts across the country for research initiatives that will improve nursing practices and outcomes for diverse patient populations.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under award numbers R21AG072265, R01NR018848 and R33AG062884, as well as the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health under award number R01NR018848. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.