UF Nursing faculty and students embrace research mentorship

University of Florida College of Nursing researchers collaborated with a recent Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate and an interdisciplinary team of researchers to co-author an article that was published in the scientific journal, the Journal of Pain.

Assistant Professors Ellen Terry, PhD; Staja “Star” Booker, PhD, RN; and Keesha Roach, PhD, RN, as well as Rebecca Gomez (BSN 2020) worked together on a study titled “A mediation appraisal of catastrophizing, pain-related outcomes, and race in adults with knee osteoarthritis,” focused on a phenomenon called “pain catastrophizing.” They investigated how different racial groups view pain, as well as the impact this may have on their treatment.

Dr. Ellen Terry

“Pain catastrophizing makes individuals feel like their pain is worse than it actually may be,” said Gomez, who worked on the study as a student in the BSN program. “It may cause people to be more impacted by their pain, which can disable them or reduce their mobility for a long time.”

After analyzing self-reported measures of pain from participants, the research team found that specific ethnic groups, such as African Americans, are more likely to experience more intense pain compared to white individuals, due to pain catastrophizing. According to Terry, these results suggest that pain catastrophizing is an important variable to consider in efforts to reduce ethnic and racial disparities when treating chronic pain.

While working with Terry to produce the study, Gomez said she gained hands-on experience with data collection techniques, such as questionnaires, and is now confident she will be able to design her own research project in the future.

“Working with Dr. Terry was phenomenal,” Gomez said. “I am so grateful for her patience, knowledge and mentorship.”

Terry originally became Gomez’s mentor in the fall semester of 2019. Under Terry’s guidance, Gomez wrote an abstract on the research team’s work titled “Pain catastrophizing mediates race/ethnic group differences and pain, disability, and functional performance in individuals with knee osteoarthritis,” which was presented during the College of Nursing’s Annual Research Summit in spring 2020.

“It was great working with a mentee who was motivated and eager to learn about the process of research,” Terry said. “Rebecca is very conscientious, reliable and hardworking.”

A first-generation student, Gomez’s first experience with nursing research was as a member of Engaging Multiple Communities of BSN students in Research and Academic Curricular Experiences, or EMBRACE program.

An innovative nursing diversity group created to provide unique research and leadership opportunities for nursing students from multiple backgrounds, EMBRACE helped Gomez find her research interests and meet other first-generation students who shared her passion for learning. The program also connected her with Terry, who helped her discover her love for research and developing methods to help patients with chronic pain.

“In EMBRACE, I truly felt ‘embraced’,” Gomez said. “They accepted anyone and everyone and thanks to them, I was able to meet with incredible individuals such as Dr. Terry who changed the path of my nursing career.”

Rebecca Gomez

Now a nurse at the University of Washington Medical Center, Gomez credits her time on the research team for her newfound success on her oncology unit. She now even considers returning to school to earn a PhD and conduct research on hospice care to learn how to help make the process more comfortable for patients.

“Working with College of Nursing researchers was a great way to see another side of nursing,” she said. “Without research, nursing can’t progress. I’m so grateful I had the chance to learn from individuals who are doing amazing things in the field!”

Read the team’s article here.