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Faculty Feature: Drs. Pamela Stephenson and Yvonne Smith
Forging new and innovative pathways in nursing research, Dr. Pamela Stephenson and Dr. Yvonne Smith of the Kent State University College of Nursing are contributing new knowledge to the fields of palliative care and spiritual uncertainty (Stephenson) and service by nurses on governing boards and online nursing education effectiveness (Smith). Working within their respective fields, both are active researchers and educators conducting funded research studies and disseminating their findings through publications, presentations, and classroom interactions.
Pamela L. Stephenson, Ph.D., RN, AOCNS, Assistant Professor
Grounded in her expertise in the areas of palliative care, oncology, and end-of-life, Dr. Pamela Stephenson’s research focuses on spirituality and spiritual uncertainty at the end of life. For patients, families, and health care providers, spiritual uncertainty at the end of life can be a source of added distress and discomfort, so Dr. Stephenson’s work in this field is targeted to a better understanding of spiritual uncertainty and effective ways to address this often-unmet need. Because the concept of spiritualty can be overwhelming, she has identified five attributes of spirituality—meaning, belief, connection, self-transcendence, and value—to make the abstract notion of spirituality more concrete.
Dr. Stephenson works as part of a family-centered hospice and palliative care research team at the Kent State University College of Nursing that includes colleagues Dr. Denice Sheehan and Dr. Dana Hansen. She is currently developing two instruments related to spiritual uncertainty at the end of life: the State of Spirituality (SOS) scale and the Spirituality Uncertainty-Providers (SU-P) survey. The State of Spirituality (SOS) scale is a bedside assessment tool designed to promote spiritual conversations at the end of life between patients, family members, and providers which may provide a higher degree of comfort and tranquility. She has also developed the Spirituality Uncertainty-Providers (SU-P) survey to assess spiritual uncertainty for providers of end-of-life care. By analyzing the questions, doubts, and worries people have about the spiritual attributes, Dr. Stephenson hopes to provide health professionals with needed language and tools to guide spiritual conversations and decision-making with patients nearing the end of life and their families.
Dr. Stephenson’s research investigating spiritual uncertainty in the realm of palliative care has been recognized as important to compassionate end-of-life care and funded by organizations such as the American Nurses Foundation and the Palliative Care Research Cooperative. Her research findings have been published in numerous academic journals, including Palliative and Supportive Care, Western Journal of Nursing Research, International Journal of Palliative Nursing, Oncology Nursing Forum, Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, and Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing. In addition to her research activities, Dr. Stephenson teaches a number of graduate-level courses for the College of Nursing such as History and Philosophy of Nursing Science, Theoretical Basis of Nursing Practice, and Health Care Delivery for Advanced Nursing Practice.
Yvonne M. Smith, Ph.D., APRN-CNS, Assistant Professor
Dr. Yvonne Smith has expertise in several areas of nursing research, including nurses on governing boards and pedagogies related to online teaching and learning. Recent interest in promoting and expanding service by nurses on governing boards by the Institute of Medicine, Nurses on Boards Coalition, and other organizations have led to pioneering research by Dr. Smith and other nurse leaders to investigate health leadership by nurses and their unique contributions to board service. Nurse participation on governing boards has historically been very low, so research investigating the types of skills and training needed for success in these positions, as well as how to cultivate greater numbers of nurse leaders, has the potential to increase nurse membership on boards and effect healthcare through nurses’ patient-centered approach. As part of her efforts to study nurse leadership, Dr. Smith is developing an instrument to study service by nurse leaders on governing boards. Recently, Dr. Smith’s groundbreaking work in this field was recognized with funding by the Ohio Nurses Foundation for her proposal, “Nurses’ Perceptions of Their Effectiveness as Governing Board Members.”
In addition to her interest in nurse leadership, Dr. Smith’s research also pedagogies related to nursing education effectiveness. She has investigated nursing faculty perceptions of experiences, strategies, and intensity while teaching in the online environment. Another avenue of interest for Dr. Smith is how building relationships in nursing education and practice influences both learning and practice-related outcomes. Dr. Smith’s study of teaching effectiveness in online nursing education has also been funded by several organizations. Her proposal, “Teaching Effectiveness in Online Higher Education: Instrument Development Pilot Study” was recognized with the Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI)/National League for Nursing (NLN) Research Award, and her study, “Understanding Teaching Effectiveness in Online Nursing Courses: A Qualitative Approach” was funded by the Delta Omega Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI).
Dr. Smith’s experience in many leadership roles, including membership in the American Organization of Nurse Executives, American Nurses Association, Ohio Nurses Association, National League for Nursing, and Ohio Board of Nursing Board of Directors, has helped to inform her current program of research and her encouragement of the next generation of nurse leaders. She coordinates the College of Nursing’s Health Care Management concentration in the MSN program and teaches several courses in the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs, including Nursing and Health Care Management Seminar, Clinical Scholar, Internship in Health Care Management, Health Care Organization Structure and Behavior, and Global Health Immersion – Geneva. Dr. Smith’s scholarship has been published in numerous journals, including the Journal of Professional Nursing, Journal for Nurse Practitioners, Ohio Nurses Review, and Nurse Educator.