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  1. Section Editor(s): Rust, Jo Ellen MSN, RN, Column Editor

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CURRENT POSITION: Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Research, Department of Acute and Tertiary Care


CURRENT AFFILIATION(S): University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing


AREA(S) OF SPECIALIZATION: Adult Health- Cardiopulmonary


PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION: BSN, Kent State University, 1975; MN, University of Washington, 1982; PhD, University of Pittsburgh, 2003




Annette DeVito Dabs, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN, is the 2011 recipient of the Clinical Nurse Specialist Researcher of the Year Award, presented by the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) at the annual March meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr DeVito Dabbs is a highly respected and certified adult medical surgical clinical nurse specialist (CNS) with extensive research experience. Dr Dabbs was nominated by Patricia K. Tuite RN, MSN, CCRN, who states, "While most CNSs strive to fulfill the competencies of the CNS role (expert clinician, coach and mentor, consultant, leader, collaborator and researcher), few reach the level of success in all areas that Dr Dabbs has reached, particularly regarding research and dissemination."


Her specialization focuses on the care of persons with chronic cardiopulmonary conditions. Ms Tuite reports that Dr Dabbs' initial master's thesis about the predictors of acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) led to one of the first qualitative studies in the area of pulmonary nursing. This work led to a seminal paper regarding the experience of dyspnea, and the identification of best practices for managing dyspnea in acute care settings. Dr Dabbs has received nursing research awards from the Pennsylvania Nurse Foundation, the Nursing and Social Science Council of the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplant, and the Nursing Assembly of the American Thoracic Society. She is the recipient of numerous research grants from foundations and professional organizations including Sigma Theta Tau, the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, and the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation and has received more than $3 million dollars in research funding from the National Institute of Nursing Research. Richard Henker, PhD, RN, CRNA, FAAN, professor and interim chair, Acute/Tertiary Care Department, University of Pittsburg School of Nursing, supported her nomination and noted that her work has informed nursing practice in adherence to complex regimens, active involvement of patients in their care, and health-related quality of life. She led an interdisciplinary team to develop Pocket PATH (Personal Assistant for Tracking Health), a technology-based nursing intervention that provides lung recipients with smart telephones loaded with custom programs to help them monitor their health at home and communicate condition changes to their nurse coordinators. This has recently been expanded to develop a teenage version to assist adolescent organ recipients and their parents to adhere to medications, health behaviors, and transition the teenager to assume responsibility for his/her own care.


How has your CNS role prepared you for or contributed to your research agenda?

CNSs are educated to fulfill many different roles. As leaders, CNSs are uniquely situated to make an impact on practice, research, education, and policy. As expert clinicians, we identify clinical problems that arise in practice, and these are the issues that drive our research questions. A research agenda is only meaningful if it is driven by significant clinical problems, generates evidence, and ultimately informs nursing practice, education, and health policy.


What do you see as the most significant areas of research now and in the future for the nursing care of patients within your area of specialization?

The aging demographic, the rise in chronic illnesses, and occurrence of multiple comorbidities pose significant challenges for nursing practice, education, and research. The challenges that patients face in managing chronic illnesses, such as COPD, diabetes, heart failure, or HIV, may be unique, but management of all chronic illnesses has features in common, including the need for patients to perform self-care behaviors, be active participants in their care, communicate effectively with providers, and share decisions about treatments, symptom management, and end-of-life care. Nurses are well situated to facilitate patient provider partnerships to improve health and quality of life.


What strategies would you propose to CNSs to help them incorporate actual research in their usually already busy schedules or practice? You have authored many articles in your specialty, what practical tips on writing for publication would you share with CNSs?

Clinical practice responsibilities leave little protected time for research. Patient, family, and staff needs always take precedence and always seem to arise and trump any protected time you thought you had carved out to devote to research and writing. A model that was successful in increasing my scholarly productivity (research and publication) when I was a CNS in full-time clinical practice was to work synergistically with a peer and to seek the guidance of a research mentor. I identified another peer-CNS who was willing to cover my responsibilities-and I agreed to cover hers-1 day every 2 weeks. That way, each of us had a day to work on scholarly projects without interruption. Of course, our immediate supervisor was on board with this arrangement. There were times when this arrangement was not possible to adhere to, but we agreed to make it a priority as often as possible. Also, I sought a mentoring relationship with an experienced researcher to help guide me in the research process. With mentorship, CNSs have the skills to move forward by identifying a clinical problem, developing a researchable question, selecting an appropriate design and methods, conducting a study, and disseminating the findings. These activities will not only increase the scholarly productivity of CNSs but they will also be rewarding professionally and personally.


What has it meant to you to receive this award both personally and professionally?

To me, the CNS role is the BEST role ever. I cannot think of another advanced practice role which has as great an impact on patients, families, nurses, and the profession as the CNS. Personally, I am truly honored to be selected for this award. On a professional level, this award reflects the value that the NACNS places on the conduct of research and will go far in promoting and rewarding such activities among CNSs in the future.