Student Profile: Junior Nursing Major Madeline Sterling and Professor and Associate Dean for Research Mary K. Anthony, Ph.D., RN

What did you research this summer?

Headshot of Madeline Sterling

Sterling: Two semesters ago, I had the opportunity through my honors class to get involved with this research project that Dr. Anthony introduced me to. We are looking at how layout and other environmental factors relate to the trauma room. We're focusing more on interruptions and disruptions in the trauma room, and then the architecture students are focusing more on the layout aspect. 

Dr. Anthony: Dr. Sara Bayramzadeh from architecture is the primary investigator on this grant, and I'm a co-investigator on this grant. What's particularly interesting to us is how interruption and disruptions impact the flow of the work as well as the outcomes. In nursing, interruptions and disruptions are an area of study because of their potential for adverse events. Once a nurse gets interrupted, the flow of thinking and cognitive work can be affected. This could lead to delays or errors in care. 

Why do you choose to involve undergraduate students in your work?

Dr. Anthony: That's a good question. I think that there's a lot of reasons we involve undergraduate students. Florence Nightingale was a researcher and it's important for nurses to be introduced to their role in research and evidence-based practices early on in their academic careers. It exposes them to a variety of skills that could not only be useful if they choose to pursue a scientific career but will also be useful to them in their practice. At this point in time, they're putting the puzzles of their career together. It may lead to a scientific career and it may not but to be able to expose them and give them the opportunity to work with a research team that's interdisciplinary provides valuable experience. 

What would you tell a freshman student who's interested in research? How should a younger student who's interested in research connect with faculty?

Sterling: I think it's great when you ask questions, try to get involved with your professors and see what your professor's experience has been. 

Dr. Anthony: Madeline was also in the Honors Program. I think the Honors Program has opportunities for students as they enter their college career to be among other students who maybe have different levels of curiosity and expectations or approaches. The norms and the culture of the Honors Program gives students a jump start into pursuing things that are different or novel. They're among peers who can share their stories of opportunities. 

What would you say are the characteristics of a good mentor/mentee relationship between faculty and students?

Dr. Mary Anthony, Associate Dean for Research — College of Nursing

Dr. Anthony: I've been thinking a lot about this for a variety of reasons. I was thinking back to what it means to be a mentor. You can read a million definitions of a mentor, and people don't have just one mentor. Mentors take on different roles as we move into our careers at different stages. 

The first time I was mentored was during my sophomore year as an undergraduate. My sophomore clinical instructor let me ask questions, think outside of the box and I didn't have to fit into a certain pattern or expectation. I don't even think she knew that she was allowing me to do all of that but she did. 

When I went through my career and through my Ph.D. program, I had an advisor who just pushed me into different ways of thinking. It wasn't always pleasant, but I think she knew what she was doing. I'd say to learn to trust your mentor even when it's not clear. I'd also say to have faith that they have an idea on how to guide you and trust your mentor to do some of the heavy lifting.

Sterling: I think it's just about being comfortable enough to ask the questions that you think are super dumb. Because I personally don't know anything, but I feel that me and Dr. Anthony are at a point where I can ask anything that's on my mind and get it all out there and ask the weird questions. 

What are the benefits you feel that undergraduate students glean from participation in undergraduate research? 

Dr. Anthony: Well ideally the future benefit is the pipeline into the Ph.D. program. Science advances practice and practice informs science. That's always an end goal. But there's lots of other things that are critically important. I think, like I mentioned before, being part of a research team and being exposed to research allows you to get some experience in how to ask questions, how to take a question and move it forward. The best science is built by a good team. 

What do you feel are the benefits of the SURE program in regards to your future?

Sterling: I feel like as nurses you have so many different career paths you can take. Doing the SURE program has shown me all the different ways I can use my nursing degree and has opened up a lot of 'idea doors' for me.