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Senior studies risk of violence

Teresa Yang shows the smart phone application "Circle of 6" that she used in her research study on safety in college students.

Senior Teresa Yang, one of two College of Nursing inaugural Davis Undergraduate Summer Nursing Scholars, questioned safety behaviors in college students. Working with Professor Elizabeth Dowdell, PhD, RN, FAAN, she targeted her scholarly interests on the design of a quantitative pilot study “Using Technology to Increase the Safety of College Students”—an issue of growing concern from The White House.

Teresa tracked the use of a safety smart phone application called "Circle of 6" among college women and examined risk behavior correlation to the use of the application. The creation of a survey tool and recruitment of the sample population posed initial challenges, but she was able to receive a positive number of responses from her sample.

While she is still analyzing her data, Teresa has found some interesting results.  For example, the application offers the user three ways to reach out to others in the event that they need assistance. In all of the instances that the application was used, it was used in the exact same way. Teresa also discovered that the women who exhibited the most risky behavior were not the students who used the application. Overall, most women reported feeling safer with the application available on their phone and that they would recommend the app to others.  “I have enjoyed comparing my results to my hypotheses and thinking about how the results can have an impact on the nursing profession,” notes Teresa. By better understanding the use and integration of technology by a college age population, nurses can develop better screening, assessment, intervention, and education for safety with this generation.

Dr. Dowdell, who as a specialist in forensic nursing and victimology has studied risk behaviors in a variety of populations, agrees on the value of the work, “Teresa is an exceptional student whose research findings are very representative of what national studies have reported in terms of college women and the risk of violence.  She focused her efforts to examine safety and use of technology in college women and in doing so developed a first rate quantitative research study.”  She goes on to say, “Teresa’s research study has meaningful application for college women and for those professionals who work with this population.”

Through this opportunity, Teresa was able to apply what she learned in her undergraduate research course and put it into action. The summer externship emphasized the fact that nursing is evidenced-based and that research is crucial for the advancement of nursing care.  “I was incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to learn more about the research process through the Davis Scholarship. I have also enjoyed working with my faculty mentor Dr. Dowdell and I could not have done this research without her support,” offers Teresa.

Once she completes her data analysis, Teresa is planning to publish her results and share them with other students at Villanova University College of Nursing Annual Research Symposium and the College of Nursing’s Undergraduate Research Day. The budding researcher has a strong foundation to build upon. According to Dr. Dowdell, “Teresa’s performance both in the preparation for the Davis study as well as coordination of the study and data analysis has been excellent.”

With this “incredibly positive experience” under her belt, Teresa already has more research questions and hopes to explore more opportunities to participate in nursing research in the future. “I have learned that a lot of time and energy has to go into the research process, but it is very rewarding,” she says.