Honors Nursing Student Completes New Research on Facilitating End of Life Discussions

Catie Woodward Helps Construct Simulation Program to Train Healthcare Workers to Facilitate Positive End of Life Conversations
Catie wearing a mask during her lunch break at Akron General Medical Center.
Catie Woodward is a third-year honors student from Canton, Ohio, majoring in nursing. Though she has had many other accomplishments in her time at Kent State, Catie’s most recent success was performing undergraduate research in the nursing program.

As part of her nursing major, Catie had to complete research with a nursing faculty member and present her research at a podium presentation in December of 2020. For her research, Catie partnered with Dr. Dana Hansen of the College of Nursing on a project called CAREol, which stands for catalyzing relationships at the end of life. The project focused on end of life discussions that health care professionals often must facilitate with patients and family members. With the help of performing arts students from Kent State, students in the nursing and premed programs completed a simulation of facilitating an end of life conversation. After the first simulation, students received feedback from professionals who observed the simulation, and then were able to practice incorporating that feedback into the next simulation. The project’s goal was to make premed and nursing students more confident and competent at facilitating end of life conversations. Catie’s responsibility in the CAREol project was to complete a literature review table, help with the script and setup of the simulation, and relay feedback to students on the simulation day. After the simulation, Catie was also accepted into the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program for the summer of 2021, where she will help Dr. Hansen analyze the data collected during the CAREol simulation and hopefully help Dr. Hansen publish a scholarly article about the simulation program as well.

When asked what allowed her to succeed in this research project, Catie says her open-mindedness. Initially planning to research pediatrics for her December podium presentation, Catie was disappointed when she was not able to find a faculty member researching pediatrics. When Amy Veney, a PhD student in the College of Nursing, pointed Catie to Dr. Hansen’s project, Catie says, “I didn’t originally think CAREol was something I would be interested in, but then I fell in love with it.” Catie also credits her success to the communication and professionalism skills she has learned in the Honors College. Faculty and staff at Kent State also prepared Catie to perform well in the CAREol project. Katie especially appreciates Anita Slack, Kent’s nursing librarian, and her honors advisor for their support.

Not only was Catie well prepared to succeed in the CAREol project, but she also gained valuable skills throughout her research with Dr. Hansen. Catie says, “I definitely have a better understanding of the research process for evidence-based medical practices now.” For example, after helping Dr. Hansen with the CAREol project, Catie says she understands the importance of credibility and the research approval process. Catie adds that she got to help design the Blackboard Collaborate course that students completed prior to the CAREol simulation, which gave her experience with structuring learning materials. More broadly, Catie also feels that she has stronger research and collaboration skills thanks to her time working with Dr. Hansen.

Catie’s experience with the CAREol project has also opened up new opportunities for her. Not only will she participate in the SURE program to help Dr. Hansen analyze data from the simulation, but Catie also plans to complete a Senior Honors Thesis focused on the CAREol project. CAREol also applies more broadly to Catie’s career goals. Hoping to work at Akron General Medical Center after passing her nursing certification, Catie notes that many healthcare professionals do not feel comfortable facilitating end of life conversations. This is a problem, Catie says, because in order for patients to have a positive end of life experience and for their family members to have closure, patients must have difficult conversations with their family, whether the topic be religious end of life traditions, resolving old conflicts, or something else. Catie says that many patients and family members feel uncomfortable having those important conversations, so often healthcare professionals must help initiate those discussions. If healthcare workers are inadequately trained to initiate end of life discussions, Catie adds, it can keep a patient from having a peaceful end of life experience. As such, not only has Catie’s work with CAREol given her more undergraduate research opportunities, but she also feels that her research with Dr. Hansen is benefiting the entire healthcare field.

Catie is grateful to the faculty and staff who helped her succeed in her research, and she is excited to graduate in the summer of 2022.

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PHOTO CAPTION 1: Catie Woodward standing outside in Akron, Ohio.

PHOTO CAPTION 2: Catie wearing a mask during her lunch break at Akron General Medical Center.

Media Contact: Stephanie Moskal, smoskal@kent.edu, 330-672-2312

POSTED: Monday, May 3, 2021 - 5:08pm
UPDATED: Monday, May 3, 2021 - 5:09pm
WRITTEN BY:
Olivia Wachtel, Honors College Writing Intern