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Fueled by Initiative and Innovation, Hailey Clark is Building an Array of Research Skills

Hailey Clark in graduation gown in front of campus church

When Hailey Clark '21 BSN lands her first nursing position as a new graduate – she hopes to be in pediatrics or critical care - you can bet that research will be part of her practice.

Her interest tracks back to high school. Curious and open to new experiences, one summer she left her San Ramon, California home, east of San Francisco, to fly across the country and live in a dorm at Boston University (BU) while assisting with quantitative research. Part of the Research in Science and Engineering (RISE) Internship, sponsored by BU, Hailey studied vitamin D absorption rates in human skin of varying pigments. “I loved being at the forefront of innovation and new knowledge,” she recalls with excitement.

Hailey arrived at Villanova as one of three students in Nursing’s Class of 2021 to be selected as one of Villanova’s Presidential Scholars. In her junior year, while also appointed a Dean’s Scholar, Hailey worked with research advisor Assistant Professor Christina Whitehouse, PhD, CRNP, CDCES, whom she calls “an amazing mentor.” They studied the impact of the use of telehealth triage for patients with acute exacerbations of chronic illness. Their objective was to systematically review the literature to identify and describe characteristics and findings of telehealth triage nursing interventions for patients with chronic illness. Telehealth offers a means of communication between patient and provider via videoconferencing, remote patient monitoring, and mobile health, allowing vital communication between them without the need for physical contact. Hailey learned how to do a complete review of the literature as part of the research process during this experience.

The researchers found that telehealth triage programs have the potential to decrease hospital readmissions and improve patient/caregiver satisfaction. However, in the included studies, interventions had multiple components not specifically focused on triage. Additionally, the role of the nurse was poorly described in all interventions. Therefore, there is a need to develop both nursing interventions for patients with chronic illness and to increase research on the impact of triage specifically in telehealth interventions.   

Bridging junior and senior years, Hailey continued research activities funded as a 2020 Davis Undergraduate Summer Nursing Scholar, thanks to the generosity of Hugh M. Davis ’83 MS, ’85 PhD, Pamela S. Davis and their daughter Olivia M. Davis ’13 BSN who established the program. Hailey worked with Dr. Whitehouse and Assistant Professor Michelle McKay, PhD, RN, CCRN, studying how some of her fellow students- juniors, seniors and second degree accelerated BSN track students – responded to the transition to complete virtual learning beginning in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Early in summer 2020, the team met via zoom and formed research questions that would facilitate conversations about what the students did and did not like about the transition, delivery of the education, and communication methods. She enjoys the interpersonal aspects of qualitative research, talking to people and gaining and understanding of their experiences.

Hailey says, “People wanted to talk about it and gave full answers” and the team identified themes, analyzed the data and subsequently Hailey presented “Impact of Online Clinical Learning for Undergraduate Nursing Students During COVID-19: A Qualitative Study” on behalf of the trio at the virtual 2021 Eastern Nursing Research Society (ENRS) Scientific Sessions. While she expected some of negative responses from the students such as technical and home environment challenges, Hailey explains that students had a lot of patience and empathy for the situation and were grateful for being able to learn at all during the global crisis. “I was inspired by the fortitude and resilience of the students,” she notes, adding “They also expressed that virtual learning was most effective when it had interactive elements, such as online patient care simulations.” She hopes to work towards publication this summer, a goal that her two mentors applaud.  

In terms of surprises along the way, Hailey shares that the experiences have been valuable. She has expanded her knowledge around how interviews work, conducting research, writing and communicating – “good skills to hone and I learned a lot.” In terms of applying research, Hailey explains, “Being a researcher also gave me a strong understanding of the importance of evidence-based practice, which I plan to carry with me into the clinical setting.”

That new job? “I want to be a part of the team, get settled and see what’s available. “I’d love to be on the research committee on my unit,” Hailey notes, saying she will seek certification in critical care nursing in the future.