In addition to coursework and clinical experiences, Pitt’s BSN students can enroll in the Undergraduate Research Mentorship Program (URMP). The URMP’s goal is to introduce students to research methods and to engage them in faculty-led projects and scholarship. Why should students take part in the program? “The URMP offers students the chance to improve their academic performance and to develop strong critical thinking abilities,” explains Dr. Jacqueline Dunbar-Jacob, Dean of the School. “Should they choose to pursue graduate studies, as encouraged in the nursing field, students will already have the essential skills and understanding of the methods. As evidence-based practitioners, nurses will determine patient treatment and interventions based on research; thus, early and ongoing exposure to research processes and outcomes will help graduates to be better healthcare professionals and advocates for their patients.”
Since its creation in 2008, the URMP has enrolled hundreds of BSN students, matching them to faculty mentors and projects. Students have undertaken research tasks such as data collection and management, abstract/proposal writing, preparation of IRB protocols, and dissemination of results. The students work closely with a faculty member, one who has expertise and a proven track record in garnering research funding and successfully completing projects. Under their tutelage, students learn how to define a research question or problem, how to explore potential solutions, and how to test the validity of a proposed solution.
Reflecting the diversity of research areas explored by Pitt Nursing faculty, student research endeavors through the URMP cover a broad spectrum of topics including (but not limited to) breast cancer risks and treatments, improving protective factors in teen dating violence, self-management behaviors and health outcomes after lung transplantation, and the effectiveness of peer coaching on end-of-life care education.
In addition to gaining increased knowledge and confidence, students often produce a publication or conference presentation to showcase on their résumé. In 2014, a record 23 students were invited to present either a poster or a paper at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), a prestigious conference that promotes undergraduate research and scholarship across all disciplines. Other URMP students have had their work featured in Pitt’s Science 2013 conference, the Greater Pittsburgh Nursing Research Conference, and the Gerontological Society of American’s 66th Annual Scientific Meeting.
Here is a sampling of recent accomplishments by URMP students:
- Amy Liptak, BSN ’13, co-authored an article on “Humor and Laughter in Persons with Cognitive Impairment and Their Caregivers” which was published in theJournal of Holistic Nursing.
- Joseph Burroughs (senior) and Dominique de la Cruz, BSN ’13, presented their work on “Understanding Nursing through a Theoretical Model: Complexity, Synergy, and General Systems” at the 2012 National Conference on Undergraduate Research.
- Kelly Billet (senior) presented her poster on “Prevalence of Tobacco Use among Nursing Students” at Science 2013, hosted by the University of Pittsburgh.
- Kaitlin Malone (senior) will discuss her work on “A Mixed-Method Design to Evaluate Diabetes and Reproductive Health Understanding and Knowledge in Female Adolescents with Diabetes” at the 2014 Eastern Nursing Research Society’s 26th Annual Scientific Sessions.
For more information about the Undergraduate Research Mentorship Program, please visit this Web site.