School of Nursing professor and Associate Dean for Scholarly Affairs Nancy Redeker was selected for the Virginia A. Henderson award on Sep. 2, which is presented by the Connecticut Nurses Association to recognize nurses who perform outstanding research in their field. Redeker, who is the author of the 2011 book “Sleep Disorders and Sleep Promotion in Nursing Practice,” is renowned for her research on sleep disorders and their effect on heart failure patients. The News spoke with her on Tuesday about winning the award and her work with patients.
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Q: How do you feel about the award?
A: I’m honored. It was such a great surprise.
Q: Could you tell me more about your research?
A: I work on sleep disorders affecting patients with specific health conditions. Right now I’m researching the sleep patterns of people with heart failure. In the U.S., there are more than 5.7 million people with this condition.
Q: What have you found in the course of your research?
A: We’ve found that patients who get plenty hours of sleep are able to recover more quickly from surgical procedures. We’ve also found a connection between heart failure and insomnia. Patients with heart failure are less able to fall asleep at night, affecting their heart rates.
Q: So how do you help those patients?
A: We’ve been researching methods to get rid of insomnia. For instance, we advice for low caffeine in the day, do exercise during the day, modify sleeping patterns to create a routine and other methods geared towards improving their sleeping patterns.
Q: Why do you focus on sleep? Why is sleep important?
A: Sleep is not only important for people with heart failure and other conditions, but it is a necessity that improves the quality of life of any person. People need to sleep to be healthy. For instance, there is documented data explaining that athletes perform much better after a good night of sleep, and college students, who often tend to pull all-nighters for tests, are better off closing their books and going to sleep.
Q: What are ways that you promote healthier sleeping habits in your field and with your students?
A: I explain to them that as students they need to sleep, too. I also tell them about the results of research. In fact, I recently published a textbook on sleep disorders for nurses.
Q: Could you tell me more about your book?
A: It is geared primarily towards nurses, following the latest approach to medicine called cognitive behavioral therapy. But anyone can read it.
Redeker was not the only Yale nurse to be honored.
The Connecticut Nurses’ Association has also awarded School of Nursing associate professor Linda Pellico, the Josephine A. Dolan Award for Outstanding Contribution in Nursing Education, one of the most prestigious awards in the field of nursing. Pellico, who is also the director of the Graduate Entry Prespecialty in Nursing, directs a special program at the School of Nursing that trains art-focused college graduates who wish to become nurse practitioners.
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Q: What does the Graduate Entry Prespecialty in Nursing program consist of?
A: The program trains people who have completed at least a bachelor’s degree on how become nurse practitioners. It is the only program in the United States that does not require science courses.
Q: Tell me a bit more about the program. Who makes up the great majority of students?
A: We attract mostly art students. Right now, of the 83 students enrolled, we have filmmakers, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, and artists who wish to become nurse midwves and practitioners.
Q: How do you teach them science?
A: My strategies consist of making basic sense of things. I take them to the Yale University Art Gallery, for instance, [so that they] become better trained at observing details and patterns, skills necessary in the profession. We also train in music, to be able to recognize when a patient has an abnormal heart rhythm. I also like to make this simple. Da Vinci once said that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Q: Tell me more about your method of simplicity.
A: Sure. I use M&Ms, for instance, to teach them about osmosis. It is not common to find a person with an MFA learning with M&Ms, but they like it, and they learn from it.
Q: What do you think of the award?
A: I’m being given this award, but it is not me who deserves it. It is them. When you have such brilliant and talented students, it is easy to teach them the profession as long as you listen to them. I love my students.
Q: You seem to like your job a lot.
A: I love my job. One of the things that I always tell my students, and my kids, is to find something that you like, find a passion, find something that cracks your fires, and you won’t consider it work anymore. You’ll be happy to do it.