Senior nursing student Catherine Christensen learned about the importance of communication with pediatric patients firsthand as a young patient herself. "When I was 15, I needed hip surgery for my torn labrum and transverse ligament... and three surgeons refused to do the surgery on me because I was too young.," says Christensen. An active dancer, Christensen found passion in exercising and moving her athletic body.
"Feeling like there was a barrier in communication with my providers was damaging to my autonomy and self-esteem. I felt like I was the only one advocating for myself in a time where my quality of life was significantly impacted by the pain I was experiencing."
When choosing her Honors Smart Start program research topic, Christensen immediately knew she wanted to draw from her experience with patient/provider communication. Through observation and conversations with her peers, Christensen recognized the majority of her classmates had some level of anxiety when it came to the thought of communicating appropriately with pediatric patients, and few understood the concept of assent from a child. "I wanted my thesis to impact the future generation of nurses to become more effective and caring communicators." Christensen's topic, Therapeutic Pediatric Communication, has an emphasis on incorporating consent and assent appropriately in nursing care.
Hands On Practice
Christensen is incorporating simulation into her research to allow students to practice pediatric communication in a safe setting- where students can make mistakes and learn.
"We are running a simulation that I wrote alongside College of Nursing faculty to simulate a patient encounter in which they practice taking on a role as an educator, advocate, and therapeutic communicator at the pediatric level."
Christensen explained the research process has been tedious over the past 3.5 years. Her work has seen many rounds of changes and tweaks before finalizing the students' simulation run. "My research mentors at the college have been a tremendous help as they've guided me through the process. My project wouldn't be what it is without them," says Christensen.