One Yale professor is changing the face of nursing by teaching her peers about technology.

School of Nursing professor Marjorie Funk NUR ’84 GRD ’92 SPH ’92 was awarded the 2011 Distinguished Research Lectureship by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses last week. The award, given annually since 1982, recognizes nurses who have consistently conducted research that has had an impact onthe field of nursing .

According to a press release from the nursing association, Funk’s research tests “the effectiveness of an intervention in real-world clinical practice.”

But Funk has not always been a nationally renowned medical researcher.

After receiving an undergraduate degree in biblical and theological studies from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, Funk joked that her job opportunities were limited because she is agnostic. (Agnoticism describes a group of people who are uncertain about the existence of a higher power, or god.)

Thinking back to her college summers working at a nursing home, Funk said she remembered enjoying patient care, so she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree of science in nursing at Cornell University.

After six years working as a nurse at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Funk said she found her interests moving towards cardiovascular nursing and intensive care.

“I worked in a coronary care unit,” said Funk. “I liked the challenge of working with sicker patients.”

Funk decided to come to Yale to earn a masters degree in medical-surgical nursing with a clinical specialty in cardiovascular nursing.

But research quickly became Funk’s passion.

Since receiving a doctorate in chronic disease epidemiology from Yale, Funk said she has been immersed in research.

She added that her current project aims to improve nursing practices related to continuous electrocardiographic monitoring, common technology that tracks the activity of a patient’s heart.

Her study, developed with co-investigator Professor Barbara Drew from the University of California San Francisco, uses an interactive online educational program to improve nurses’ understanding of medical technology.

“Continuous electrocardiographic monitors have great potential, but sometimes a nurse doesn’t have the time to figure it all out,” Funk said.

Funk said she formulated the idea for this study from both her prior research and her own clinical experience. With the amount of technology in hospital units and many competing priorities, Funk says it is easy for nurses not to use the technology at their disposal to its fullest capacity.

Funk said she hopes the online educational intervention is successful at improving the quality of continuous electrocardiographic monitoring and outcomes for patients.

“The study is being done on cardiac units in hospitals — we need to implement it in other patient care units,” said Funk. “I’m hoping we can expand [the study] to have good-quality monitoring across the hospital.”

Drew said the clinical trial aimed to improve nurses’ understanding of the cardiographic technology they use. She added that the trials target some of the hospital’s sickest patients because success in this area will provide a strong argument for success in general nursing.

But among friends Funk is known for much more than her researching prowess.

“Marge Funk is not only a scratch golfer, she’s the best damn golfer on the golf course,” lecturer Mark Lazenby said. “Her research skills mirror her ability on the golf course.”

Professor Funk has been on the faculty at the Yale School of Nursing since 1984.