Carolyn Pierce, assistant professor of nursing, once thought that she could help engineers communicate. Instead she learned, she says, that “they are excellent communicators and I learned from them about the world and the way people work.”
Her connection to engineers began casually, when she assisted a graduate student in an osteoporosis study with the Department of Bioengineering. “They were monitoring people with devices,” she says, “and it was an easier transition for me because as a critical care nurse I was used to monitoring people.”
The experience sparked an interest for Pierce in multidisciplinary research. Pierce enjoys the way engineers think. She believes nurses can gain a great deal from working with them and the nursing model will evolve to another level as a result. “What motivates me is the interaction between different knowledge bases,” she says. “The sum is so much greater than the parts.”
Pierce’s real passion, she says, is working to develop new interventions for heart failure patients that are less overwhelming than open-heart surgery and that utilize management techniques that are nurse-run. She has a current focus on ameliorating fluid retention in ankles, which correlates with chronic disease and occurs in 40 percent of all women, but not in men. Using the plantar stimulation device, she conducted a small, focused study and is currently seeking funding from the National Institute of Nursing Research for a second, larger, and longer study.
The second study will also use a plantar stimulation device that provides a gentle vibration as it contracts the calf muscles, helping to move fluid back from a patient’s ankles. “I hope the intervention will work,” says Pierce, “and I hope it creates an opportunity for nurses to use it and manage it. It can help us realize what it is that nursing is and does.
“I like using a device – something instead of a pill,” she says. “It’s really fun being at the origin of its development, and I hope it will make a difference in people’s health in the not too distant future.”
Last Updated: 1/8/13