Specialized research nurses who work with the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science provide outpatient, inpatient, and off-site care for research participants, along with an array of other research support services.

UK’s clinical research nurses help make discoveries happen

Across the University of Kentucky, clinical research nurses carry out clinical procedures and care for those who participate in research studies. They not only provide the best possible patient care, but they also help make discoveries that advance healthcare altogether.

Research nurses have long been at the heart of health research, but it wasn’t until late 2016 that the American Nurses Association recognized clinical research nursing as nursing specialty practice.

For Linda Rice, a registered nurse and director of clinical operations for the clinical services core (CSC) of the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS), the designation of a clinical nursing specialty for research means a great deal.

“It means a lot to me that my colleagues recognize our specialty – that all the time and effort and years of training are acknowledged by our board and peers,” Rice said. “I’ve enjoyed seeing my profession grow, and knowing that the decisions we make to take care of our patients are based on evidence-based research. It does take nurses to conduct successful clinical research, and they have to specifically trained – it’s a body of knowledge and experience.”

Working across medical specialties

Rice oversees a team of nurses who assist in conducting research in the CCTS inpatient and outpatient research units for adults and children. They also provide additional clinical research services, such as study coordination.

Over the last three years, the CCTS CSC has averaged between 1,200 and 1,500 inpatient bed-nights per year, 1,600 to 1,800 outpatient days per year, and 500 to 700 offsite visits per year. During this time, the clinical research nursing team has also had to perform increasingly complex tasks, such as euglycemic clamps, oral glucose tolerance tests, muscle/bone biopsies, a wide variety of infusions (like monoclonal antibodies and immunotherapies), pediatric care and off-site care.

In total, about 56 research nurses work in research across medical specialties at UK, such as cancer, neurology, surgery, neonatology/pediatrics, cardiology, behavior science and substance use disorders, emergency care, and infectious diseases.

‘Research is the hope of the future’

Rice entered the field after encountering research nursing in her undergraduate training. Hoping to use this aspect of her education, she applied for a research coordinator job. The possibility of finding ways to improve patient care has motivated her work for nearly three decades.

“I love being on the cutting edge,” she said. “I love knowing, as a nurse, what other things are out there that are being trialed to improve care for patients. I was drawn to this profession because I wanted to help people. And what better way than to be on the front end of trying to make things better? Someone told me once that without research, there is no hope. Research is the hope of the future for better health. And to help facilitate that is such a reward.”

The primary task is the same in research nursing as in standard clinical nursing: to care for people, in this case research participants. But research nurses must possess a repertoire of knowledge and skills far beyond clinical practice. They must also know the complex tiers of institutional and federal regulations that govern health research in general, as well as the intricate protocols and diverse clinical skills required by each specific research study.

No two days are alike

Kathy Holbrook is a registered nurse and is a clinical research coordinator who also works with the CCTS. She’s been a research nurse for 13 years but said that when she started in the field, she didn’t know exactly what she was getting into.

“I learned as I went along,” she said. “But you’re still a nurse first. That means you’re ensuring the health and safety of whomever you’re taking care of. For me, it’s research volunteers.”

Holbrook finds the her work in research nursing to be invigorating and appreciates that no two days are ever alike. At any given time she might be working on several research studies in different medical specialties that require her to perform an array of tasks.

“We do a lot of data collection and we make a lot of observations to support the thesis of the protocol,” Holbrook said. “We educate our participants and volunteers on what it means to be a participant in research. And research protocols have you do procedures you might not often do in bedside or clinic nursing. The variety is endless, and that’s one of the things that keeps it fresh and interesting.”

Working closely with study volunteers and researchers is another highlight of the job, Holbrook said.

“It’s very heartwarming to know that people are willing to give of themselves for altruistic reasons,” she said. “And in working with the researchers, we get to see people being creative and thinking outside of the box to really look at something differently and ask how we can do something better.”

Next steps:

  • Researchers are working hard to identify new treatments and strategies to improve health, but they need healthy participants and those with medical conditions to participate in clinical studies. Find out how you can participate in clinical research at UK HealthCare.
  • Learn more about the groundbreaking translational research happening at UK CCTS.
spring cleaning

Before you start spring cleaning, check out our safety tips

Wayne Sanderson

Wayne Sanderson

Written by Wayne Sanderson, a professor of epidemiology in the UK College of Public Health.

The arrival of spring inspires fresh starts and clean slates. Longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures energize homeowners to empty out their garages, fertilize their lawns or start home improvement projects.

However, using chemicals, sprays and equipment to complete household projects always poses some level of risk. To stay safe during spring cleaning, follow these simple safety measures:

Cleaning with chemicals

The state poison control office receives 10 percent of its annual calls during the spring season. While working with cleaning products containing ammonium and chlorine, keep buckets and bottles out of a child’s reach. If you suspect a child has ingested a cleaning product, call poison control immediately at 800-222-1222.

Cleaning solutions with an ammonium or chlorine base can also burn the skin and cause respiratory distress. Always wear impervious gloves while working directly with these products. Because these products release chemicals as mists and vapors, it’s important to ventilate the area by opening a window or wearing a protective mask.

Serious chemical burns also occur when a cleaning solution is absorbed into clothing and remains in contact with the skin. If a cleaning solution is absorbed into clothing, change clothes right away. If the burning and reddening of the skin persists, go to the emergency room.

Pressure washers

Pressure washers get rid of the grit and grime that builds up in garages, siding and decks. However, gasoline-powered pressure washers emit carbon monoxide, and over-exposure to exhaust fumes can cause sudden death. Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless gas that can cause confusion, fatigue and weakness in minutes. The safest practice is to never bring pressure washers indoors.

Yard work

While mowing the grass, remember to protect your ears. Recent research has shown younger yard workers who lacked ear protection while mowing were more likely to suffer from hearing loss. Weed eating poses risks to both the ears and the eyes, as debris can ricochet into a worker’s face. Invest in a protective headset and protective eyewear, which are available at local hardware stores.


For larger-scale renovations, owners of older homes must consider the health risks associated with asbestos. Asbestos is a group of minerals found in the insulation and floor tiles of homes built prior to the 1960s. Scientific evidence suggests an association between asbestos and certain types of cancer, such as lung cancer.

When removing any insulation material that might contain asbestos, workers should wear a respirator approved by the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health. If there is a legitimate concern for asbestos contamination, the safest decision is to let the professionals handle the work.

With the right equipment and knowledge of household safety risks, you can have a productive spring season.

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UK HealthCare earns designation for high-quality LGBTQ patient care

UK HealthCare recognized for providing discrimination-free care to LGBTQ community

UK HealthCare has been named a Healthcare Equality Index Leader for its efforts in delivering high-quality care to all patients, especially those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.

The Human Right Campaign Foundation, the largest national LGBTQ civil rights advocacy group, awards this designation to healthcare facilities that “meet a deep and urgent need on the part of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans: the need for equitable, knowledgeable  and welcoming healthcare, free from discrimination.”

Equality is demonstrated in policy development, best practices and education of the workforce as integral components of the patient care environment and culture.

To ensure that we continue along this path, a team at UK HealthCare works tirelessly to review policies, patient materials and the UK HealthCare website for inclusive language. The team also continues to explore innovative methods to educate our providers and staff about caring for LGBTQ patients and their families.

To date, numerous policies have been either created or updated to reflect inclusive language around areas such as gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression. Key areas of focus with policy development include healthcare surrogates, visitation policy, end-of-life care, patient consent and bed placement of transgender patients.

Other areas of focus to strengthen our commitment to equal, safe patient care for all include:

  • Development of the Transform Health Clinic, which provides care for LGBTQ patients with an emphasis on the unique needs of transgender patients;
  • Employee benefit expansion to include coverage for gender confirming surgery along with hormone replacement therapy; and
  • A campuswide assessment and signage for all single-stall restrooms for improved privacy.

We’re proud to be named a Healthcare Equality Index Leader, and we will continue to be committed to lifting the bar of excellence and challenging ourselves to be better. We will continue to not only be an example, but to set the example as leaders in providing safe, quality and equitable care to all people from all backgrounds in the Commonwealth and beyond.

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Art therapy

Art therapy helps patients improve emotional health and well-being

Art therapy, a division of UK HealthCare’s Creative Arts Therapies program, allows patients to use artistic activities to help ease the depression and anxiety associated with illness and being in the hospital.

Fran Belvin

Fran Belvin

“Art and mental health therapy are intertwined,” said Fran Belvin, MA, ATR-BC, LPAT, a licensed art therapist serving patients at UK Markey Cancer Center and Eastern State Hospital. “Some people who have been in the hospital for a while feel depressed and isolated. Art therapy is about making a connection and getting them engaged in something that instills hope.”

A patient doesn’t have to be a consummate painter or sketch artist to benefit from art therapy services.

“It can be something as simple as using art materials to draw with lines, colors and shapes how the patient is feeling that day – an abstract drawing to depict emotions and what’s on their mind,” Belvin said. “Then we talk about what the different shapes and colors mean to them.”

Affirmations representing a patient’s current emotional needs are also helpful.

“If you’re anxious, you might use an affirmation that says, ‘I am calm and serene,’” Belvin explained. “By using that affirmation as a basis for a drawing or a collage, the patient is embodying that positive statement, which brings hope. By choosing concrete images [for a collage], people are giving themselves touchstones; they’re actually experiencing the feeling of calm while making their artwork.”

Art therapy

With cancer patients at Markey, Belvin has started a project that she hopes to put on public display in the future. When patients undergo radiation for cancer of the head or neck, they’re required to wear a white mesh mask from their head to their upper chest. The mask ensures that the patient remains still and the radiation is delivered to the appropriate area.

“It’s a confining and uncomfortable treatment, and most people aren’t happy about the radiation mask,” Belvin said. “By taking the mask and turning it into an art project, people can reclaim the whole process of their treatment and feel less victimized by the mask.”

It can be easy to misconstrue art therapy as simply handing out coloring books to provide some distraction and help pass the time. However, it is much more than that, Belvin said.

“Art therapy is not simply an activity to keep you busy or distracted, although it can be beneficial to have something else to think about other than treatment and illness,” she explained. “It’s a way for people to explore and find meaning in their illness. I think that’s the way people get over anything traumatic: to look for something that changed them in a way that they welcome. Art therapy helps people find a way to explore and express those things.”

Next steps:

  • Learn more about UK Integrative Medicine & Health, a program that focuses on the treating the whole patient using all appropriate therapies, healthcare expertise and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.
  • UK Arts in HealthCare enhances the healing atmosphere of UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital through artwork and installations by local and international artists. Learn more.
UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital

Chandler Hospital named among 100 Great Hospitals in America

UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital has been named among the 100 Great Hospitals in America by Becker’s Hospital Review, a monthly publication offering business and legal news and analysis relating to hospitals and health systems.

The hospitals included on this list are renowned for excellence. They are industry leaders in innovation, quality patient care and clinical research, and have received recognition across various publications and accrediting organizations.

Becker’s Hospital Review has published a version of this list since 2012.

The Becker’s Hospital Review editorial team selected hospitals for inclusion based on analysis of several ranking and award agencies, including U.S. News and World Report’s 2016-17 Honor Roll and specialty rankings, CMS star ratings, Leapfrog grades, Truven Health Analytics top hospitals, Most Wired hospitals and Magnet accreditation.

The full list of organizations – presented in alphabetical order – can be read here.

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Dr. Matthew Bush

Dr. Matthew Bush honored for work to improve hearing healthcare

Dr. Matthew Bush, a clinician and researcher at UK Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, was recently awarded a prestigious fellowship for his research related to improving hearing healthcare in underserved rural areas.

Bush is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Behavioral Science at UK. He is one of only 10 recipients nationwide to receive the $10,000 2017 Dissertation Fellowship from The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society for all disciplines.

His research investigates hearing healthcare disparities in underserved rural populations with a goal to develop and implement innovative interventions that improve the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss. The fellowship award will be applied toward 12 months of dissertation writing.

Bush received extensive medical training at Marshall University and UK. He studied hearing healthcare, ear surgery and innovative technologies including cochlear implants. He completed his fellowship at the Ohio State University, where he began to develop research on hearing healthcare in rural populations.

Next steps:

  • Get to know Dr. Bush in our Making the Rounds interview. He tells us what his ideal weekend looks like and how he gives the gift of hearing, here and around the world.
  • Learn more about cochlear implants, including who is a candidate for the device and how they’re different from hearing aids.
UK researcher Hefei Wen has authored a study showing state drug-monitoring programs can reduce the number of opioids prescribed to Medicaid recipients.

Monitoring programs can help address opioid epidemic, UK research shows

New research from the UK College of Public Health suggests state drug-monitoring programs are effective in reducing the number of opioids prescribed to Medicaid recipients.

Led by researcher Hefei Wen, the study shows that state requirements for healthcare providers to participate in prescription-drug monitoring programs, or PDMPs, have influenced safer prescribing practices for Medicaid patients. Published in the April edition of Health Affairs, the research suggests state PDMP mandates are linked with reduced opioid prescriptions received by Medicaid patients as well as Medicaid spending on opioid prescriptions by as much as 10 percent.

The analysis done by Wen and her team showed state mandatory registration or use of a PDMP reduced Schedule II opioid prescriptions and spending by 9 to 10 percent between 2011 and 2014. The results suggest programs like these are effective in promoting safer and more contained prescribing of opioids with high potential for abuse and dependence. These implications support PDMP mandates as effective in addressing the opioid epidemic.

Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have PDMPs in place to help providers identify patients at high risk of misusing or abusing controlled substances. However, the average registration rate across the states is low, and most registered prescribers do not use PDMPs on a consistent basis.

An increasing number of states that have implemented mandates that require providers to register with the monitoring programs and to use program data when prescribing opioids and other controlled substances. For instance, in 2012, legislators in Kentucky passed one of the most comprehensive mandates.

The Kentucky mandate requires prescribers to register with the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting System (KASPER). Then, they must query the KASPER system for all first-time prescriptions and a minimum of every 12 months after the first prescription. Similarly strong mandates can help improve participation in PDMPs and fulfill their potential in addressing the opioid epidemic.

Wen is an assistant professor in health management and policy in the UK College of Public Health. Her research leverages economic thinking to inform health care and public safety, with a concentration on behavioral health and drug control policy.

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As parents, taking care of ourselves is necessary in order to have the energy, health and disposition to be the best parents we can be.

Parents, taking care of yourself can help your kids, too

Christina R. Studts, PhD

Written by Dr. Christina Studts, assistant professor in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society in the UK College of Public Health.

For many parents, it’s difficult to find time for regular exercise. This can be especially true for parents with young children, all of whom have behavior problems from time to time. At the beginning or end of a long day, exercising often feels like the last thing we want to do.

But as parents, taking care of ourselves is necessary in order to have the energy, health and disposition to be the best parents we can be.

Keeping up with your kids

Research shows that parents with depression and/or poor physical health have a harder time practicing effective parenting strategies. When we don’t feel good, parenting is that much harder. On the other hand, exercise can have positive effects on both psychological and physical health.

We know from research that exercise can ease symptoms of depression and anxiety; it’s correlated with increased happiness, better moods, improved cognitive performance and, of course, physical fitness. Exercise also releases “feel-good” hormones and increases body temperature, which can help calm us.

Staying physically active can also help us maintain enough energy to keep up with our kids (especially those little ones!) and live long lives so that we’re there for our children as they grow up. Although it might be difficult to find ways to add physical activity to your life, doing so can improve your own well-being, your parenting and your relationship with your children.

You don’t need a gym membership

One strategy to add more physical activity to your life is to do fun, active things as a family. Instead of watching a movie, you could play pretend and chase each other around your house. You can go on a walk together, explore a new park (but don’t sit on the bench while the kids play), take the stairs and count them together, or park far away from the store and note all the colors of cars as you walk to the door. You could learn to jump rope, Pogo stick or hula hoop together.

There are also many online, at-home exercise programs that are designed specifically for parents that playfully incorporate children into exercise. A quick Google search will lead you to a variety of options, including free and low-cost video programs.

If you have low energy and/or are not enjoying time with your child, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider.

Join our research initiative

At UK, we are currently conducting a research study to learn more about the relationship between physical activity and parenting, and we’re looking for parents to participate. If you are the parent of a 3-5 year old child, sometimes struggle with your child’s behavior and do not exercise regularly, you may be eligible for this study. To learn more about this opportunity, visit UKClinicalResearch.com or call Meagan Pilar at 859-257-8911.

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Kentucky’s death rate from cervical cancer ranks among the top 10 in the nation. But many of these deaths are preventable by regular Pap smears.

Pap smears: Your best weapon against cervical cancer

It’s an unfortunate fact that Kentucky has one of the highest cervical cancer death rates in the country. The good news is many of these deaths are preventable through regular screenings called Pap smears.

Pap smears collect cells from the cervix, which are examined under a microscope to find cancer and pre-cancer. If pre-cancer is found, it can be more easily treated, stopping cervical cancer before it really starts.

There are no obvious symptoms of cervical cancer until it reaches advanced stages, so having regular Pap smears is important. Federal guidelines recommend women ages 21 (or three years after first intercourse) to 65 have a Pap smear every three years during their annual pelvic exam. Individual circumstances can vary, so talk to your doctor about how often you should have a Pap smear.

Ways to improve test results

According to the American Cancer Society, there are several ways to make your Pap smear results more accurate:

  • Try not to schedule an appointment for a time during your menstrual period. The best time is at least five days after your menstrual period stops.
  • Don’t use tampons, birth-control foams or jellies, other vaginal creams, moisturizers or lubricants, or vaginal medicines for two to three days before the Pap test.
  • Don’t douche for two to three days before the Pap test.
  • Don’t have vaginal sex for two days before the Pap test.

Check with your doctor

Because Pap smears are often done during pelvic exams, many people confuse the two. The pelvic exam is part of a woman’s routine checkup that may help find other types of cancers and reproductive problems. During a pelvic exam, the doctor examines the reproductive organs, including the uterus and the ovaries, and may do tests for sexually transmitted disease.

Be sure to check with your doctor to see if you had a Pap smear during your pelvic exam.

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