COVID-19 Research Roundup

An illustration shows three people all in white biohazard suits with masks and goggles. There are two red coronavirus illustrations in the air around them.

Faculty, staff, student, and alumni researchers at the School of Nursing and Emory Healthcare have been working feverishly on a number of projects to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few highlights:

In Progress

Dean’s Pilot Award for COVID-19 research projects

The School of Nursing established a Dean’s Pilot Award for COVID-19 research projects and will soon award grants for two research projects, including one that will focus on educational technology. Studies that nursing faculty are currently undertaking include topics ranging from effects on cancer care, symptoms, and quality of life in an autoimmune population (lupus), COVID-19 in correctional institutions, pandemic effects on the mental health of nurses, navigating health care by family caregivers of elders during a pandemic, COVID-19 impact on HIV care, and health disparities.

Investigators: Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing researchers

Ancillary study on stress and fear

Researchers have begun an ancillary study on stress and fear during the pandemic among vulnerable populations in Atlanta. The focus is on Black adults with more than one chronic condition and their concerns. The ancillary study will inform how the pandemic changed symptoms and stress perceptions.

Investigators: Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing researchers

Documenting processes for COVID-19 patient care

Emory nursing researchers are leading the way in documenting some of the processes to make caring for COVID-19 patients more effective and efficient. At Emory Clinic, a Care Coordination and Transitions Management (CCTM) team comprising registered nurses, social workers, and primary and hospital medical providers established a multidisciplinary model for transitioning COVID-positive patients from hospital to community. The team created a mechanism for patients discharged from hospitals to connect with a primary care provider (PCP), who followed up with the individuals via telemedicine. The PCP was responsible for then creating an individualized plan of care. The CCTM team will follow up with the patient by telephone on a consistent schedule: this may be twice a day, daily, every other day, or weekly for up to four weeks after discharge. In addition, the CCTM team supports the patient’s psychosocial needs after they are discharged.

Investigator:Misty Landor, director of advanced practice providers for Emory Healthcare


Alternative Care Models

In response to the pandemic, an advanced practice provider (APP) leadership team at Emory Healthcare redeployed its members and created alternative care models, leveraging skill sets to meet the demands in shifting areas of patient care. The skill sets of more than one thousand APPs, who comprise nurse practitioners and physician assistants, were swiftly catalogued, with leaders working with their APP teams to identify prior clinical experiences and competencies that could be used quickly to meet identified clinical needs across the organization in various areas. One of the key strategies was to provide support and relief for primary care providers for potential redeployment to areas where patients would need more care. The innovations from the APP teams in partnership and collaboration with physician colleagues minimized viral exposure to patients and staff and provided flexibility in managing services. The APP leadership team will continue to monitor and collect data, examining clinical outcomes, cost avoidance, and APP engagement as the crisis advances in our health care setting. A paper on these initiatives will soon be published in Nursing Economics.

Investigator:Bonnie Proulx

Process to reduce workflow burden and preserve personal protective equipment

During the pandemic, an interprofessional team at Emory University Hospital was tasked with identifying a process to reduce workflow burden and preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) in acute care COVID-19 units. The team developed a warm zone model (WZM) that facilitated the movement of staff between rooms of patients confirmed COVID-19 positive while wearing the same mask, eye protection, and gown. Staff were trained on extended PPE use and how to properly change gloves and complete hand hygiene between rooms of patients. The WZM reduced the overall number of PPE donning and doffing per shift, while maintaining or increasing the number of patient room entries and exits. The risk for self-contamination while doffing is well documented. Daily gown use decreased on WZM units, helping to preserve and extend current PPE supplies. Once the WZM proved successful in acute care, it was modified and instituted in critical care COVID-19 units. A paper documenting the impact of the warm zone model and how it eased workflow burden and improved teamwork while maintaining personal safety has been submitted to the American Journal of Nursing.

Investigator: Sarah Omess, clinical nurse, specialist for Emory Healthcare

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