Three Nursing Students Present Research During Independence Blue Cross Internship


Alyssa Christiansen, Dayna Howitz, and Reece Young, senior nursing majors, presented their research projects and accompanying posters during the Independence Blue Cross Foundation’s recognition event for its nursing internship program on August 3.

According to the Foundation, more than 20 undergraduate nursing students from 10 colleges and universities participated in the 10-week internship throughout various Independence Blue Cross or community health centers that are supported by the Foundation’s Blue Safety Net grant program. The Foundation also partnered with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to create a Leadership Lab, where student interns were able to connect experiential learning with professional development from Philadelphia’s top healthcare professionals.

Christiansen’s presentation was entitled “Barriers to Colon Cancer Screenings in Homeless Population.” Her internship target population focused on homeless and underserved individuals, which prompted her to want to understand the problems these individuals faced regarding colon cancer screenings, as well as any additional barriers to receiving proper care.

“Homeless individuals have limited resources such as access to private restrooms, transportation limitations, and even lack of insurance,” Christiansen noted in her findings. “They also have trouble navigating appointments. Some solutions to these problems are assigning patient navigators to patients in order to close the loop of care and also allowing the patient to stay at a medical respite overnight to complete the prep.”

Howitz presented a poster entitled “Sickle Cell Crisis: Improving Pain Management to Prevent Frequent Emergency Room Visits.” Her interest in the topic was sparked after working with high-cost claimants throughout the summer. Howitz wanted to examine better ways to manage pain caused by sickle cell to prevent frequent emergency room visits, ultimately lowering high-cost claims and improve the patient’s quality of life.

“I found that dedicated sickle cell infusion clinics had some of the best effects on sickle cell patients,” Howitz said. “These clinics would be staffed with doctors and nurses who specialize in sickle cell disease. This allowed for an increase in education related to sickle cell crisis and a decrease in the stigma that goes along with long-term opioid use.”

Young’s presentation was entitled “Motivational Interviewing: Getting the Most Out of Patient Contact.”

Young worked closely with referrals coming from different doctors and nurse practitioners who were dealing with diabetic individuals. Young was responsible for following up on the patient visits with a questionnaire to make sure their needs were met. According to Young, the close-ended questions did not elicit significant and meaningful responses. His research involved incorporating therapeutic interviewing to allow more dialogue and improve patient outcomes and behaviors.

“I reviewed multiple interviews from the available literature between clinicians and patients,” Young said. “The interviews compared this style with a more ‘directing’ style where the clinician tells the patient what they are going to do and how. The conversations with ‘directing’ usually ended abruptly and either missed a large part of the patients’ needs or the patient said ‘okay, sure’ to tell them what they want to hear and not actually follow through. Meanwhile, the therapeutic method allowed for a flow of dialogue. This method allowed the clinician to understand where the patient is and assess areas such as readiness to change and what strengths or weaknesses they may have to achieve their ultimate goals. The second piece of this project was seeing how it actually translates in the field and observing how this method can improve lifestyle and behaviors.”