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William F. Connell School of Nursing

Doctoral Candiate Recieved Coveted NRSA Funding

connel school news

Lisa Duffy, MS '02 and Doctoral Candidate of the William F. Connell School of Nursing, was recently awarded a prestigious Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) for her project titled "COPE: Intervention for Parents of Children with Epilepsy." NRSAs are highly competitive awards given by the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health to promising doctoral candidates who have the potential to become productive, independent research investigators. Lisa was awarded the NRSA on her first submission, "which is highly unusual and points to the anticipated value of her study and program of research," comments Lisa's doctoral program advisor, Connell School faculty Dr. Sandra Mott.

In general, the long-term objective of Lisa's study is to improve the quality of life of children with epilepsy and their families. As Lisa describes, "The uncertainty associated with caring for a child with epilepsy results in increased stress and decreased coping that ultimately alters parental functioning resulting in an increase in behavioral problems in the child."

Lisa has been an advanced practice nurse practitioner for children with acute and chronic neurological disorders at Children's Hospital, Boston for several years and is highly skilled working with this population. "Lisa brings a sound grounding in clinical practice and experience in evidence-based practice to this research project," explains Connell School faculty Dr. Judith Vessey, who also acted as Lisa's sponsor for the grant. The wealth of understanding and insight into the needs, issues, and concerns of families whose children have chronic neurological conditions has positioned her well to undertake this research.

The intervention Lisa plans to use is a modification of one that has been used successfully with acutely ill children and their parents; namely, the well tested and validated Creating Opportunities for Parent Empowerment (COPE) instrument developed by Dr. Bernadette Melnyk. Lisa's study specifically aims to determine the preliminary efficacy and feasibility of the COPE intervention with parents of children with epilepsy through testing a number of hypotheses: 1) Parents receiving COPE will demonstrate more confidence in their parenting skills post treatment compared to parents receiving usual care as measured by the Parental Beliefs Scale, 2) Parents receiving COPE will demonstrate fewer depressive symptoms post-treatment compared to parents receiving usual care as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory, 3) Parents receiving COPE will demonstrate significantly less anxiety post-treatment compared to parents receiving usual care as measured by the Parent State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and 4) Children of parents receiving COPE will demonstrate less behavior problems compared to children of parents receiving usual care as measured by the Behavior Assessment System for Children. "The hope," explains Mott, "is that this intervention begun in the hospital and continued at home will enable the parents to better support the child in accepting his/her epilepsy and all that that entails with meds and uncertainty of seizures."

"This study is the first of a trajectory that could change the face of how we care for families of children with epilepsy," adds Vessey. Ultimately, Lisa's research can potentially lead to parents being better prepared and feeling more empowered to advocate for their child, teach others, including their child about the condition, and be better prepared for the child's psycho-emotional responses to having the condition.