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Nursing science scholars

Nursing science scholars

Jonas Center funding puts Haigh, Rotchford on path to doctorates

A pair of University of Delaware nursing science graduate students, Katie Haigh and Ludmila Rotchford, are on their way to doctoral degrees thanks to funding from the Jonas Center.

In order to improve health care through nursing, the Jonas Center is making sure nurse educators are prepared. Haigh and Rotchford received two-year scholarships from Jonas, as well as matching funding from UD’s School of Nursing, to pursue their degrees.

Jonas scholars are prepared to teach and conduct nursing research. Both nurses are also seizing the opportunity to participate in national leadership development.

This marks the third occasion that UD has been awarded this prestigious funding.

Family building

Haigh works in reproductive endocrinology. Her research focus is on what young adults understand as their future fertility potential.

“There is a big gap between how young adults are educated,” said Haigh. “Most of the time, it’s on pregnancy prevention, which is appropriate, but there is no further guidance on how to family build when you’re ready — information like, ‘When does fertilization occur?’ Most doctors aren’t talking to their patients about that.”

Conversations about human reproduction and sexuality would ideally start at a young age, instead of when couples are finally ready to start their family. Fertility is impacted by variables like poor eating habits, obesity, being underweight, smoking, alcohol consumption and previous infections including sexually transmitted infections, but many people don’t learn about these factors until later on.

“A lot of times, I’ve found that, when my patients are ready to family build, they are waiting until they are secure in their jobs or to complete their education. Sometimes those things take many years,” Haigh said. “So when they are ready to start trying, many couples are surprised that they can’t get pregnant.”

The Jonas Center funding will allow Haigh to continue her research and, hopefully, develop a tool to educate young adults.

She has ties to UD dating back to 1997 as a nursing undergraduate and a family nurse practitioner master’s degree recipient who worked on research with Veronica Rempusheski, the Jeanne K. Buxbaum Chair of Nursing Science.

Now in her second-year as a doctoral student, Haigh credits her mentors for challenging her to seek answers to questions that she wanted answered.

Haigh also collaborates with Megan Wenner, assistant professor of kinesiology and applied physiology and an expert in cardiovascular research who has similar interests.

Managing heart failure symptoms

Rotchford is investigating perceptions of patients with advanced heart failure and management of symptoms. The second-year doctoral student sees a disconnect between what providers teach and what patients actually do, which can result in costly re-admittance back into the hospital. Approximately 50 percent of people diagnosed with heart failure will die within five years; thus, symptom management is of the utmost importance.

“I saw a lot of patients being readmitted and labeled as non-compliant,” said Rotchford. “Really, there were reasons for the patient not following prescribed treatments. It wasn’t necessarily because they chose to be non-compliant.”

Rotchford had a background in oncology, but when she relocated to Delaware, she began work on a step-down unit working with cardiac patients, where she’s remained for more than a decade and a half. The assiduous Rotchford is earning her degree while simultaneously working full-time at Bayhealth — a challenging proposition given the demands of the nursing field.

“I have a very understanding husband and a very supportive boss,” Rotchford said, laughing.

Rotchford previously earned a master of science degree in nursing from UD. She has aspirations of teaching in the nursing field.

“I love working with nursing students and new graduates,” she said. “They have fresh ideas and I learn from them.”


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