Nursing PhD Student Receives Prestigious Grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

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Amanda Hessels

Rutgers nursing PhD student Amanda Hessels, RN, MSN, MPH, CIC,CPHQ, will receive an 18 month, $40,000 grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) for research on the Impact of Health Information Technology on Delivery and Quality of Patient Care.  The type of grant she is receiving, called a R36, is extremely prestigious:  in the past few years around 70 R36 awards have been granted nationally, so they are highly prized.  Hessels’ grant is the first funded R36 at Rutgers, and only the second to a NJ student. 

Hessels, a resident of Leonardo, New Jersey, who works at Meridian Health System, studies patient safety, specifically adherence to infection prevention practices and processes by health care workers and organizations.  In the 2010-2011 academic year she received a fellowship from the F.M. Kirby Foundation to support her Ph.D. in nursing studies at Rutgers College of Nursing, Newark.  In the 2012-2013 academic year Amanda Hessels received the Dr. Dorothy J. DeMaio Research Fellowship Award for an outstanding student in the Rutgers College of Nursing PhD program in nursing whose dissertation/proposal targets a contemporary health care issue of significance to nursing.  

Hessels’ project is to research the adverse events in hospitalized patients that are catastrophic and costly to individuals, hospitals and society.  Despite a decade of widespread attention and action, little progress has been made in improving patient safety and reducing preventable adverse events.  The use of electronic health records (EHR) is one promising system-level initiative that might improve provider performance, interdisciplinary communication, reduce adverse patient events, improve the overall quality of patient care, and ultimately improve patient satisfaction with hospital care.  This cross-section study will empirically examine levels of EHR adoption and its association with the delivery of nursing care, taking into account a large number of patient characteristics, as well as hospital characteristics including measures of nurse staffing and organizational climate.

The sample Hessels will use includes 2006 nurse survey data from a dataset of more than 7,000 registered nurses from a study by Linda Flynn, RN, PhD, FAAN that was funded with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  The project sample will also include 72 acute care hospitals in New Jersey, and patient discharge data from approximately one million patients hospitalized during the same time.  This study will be compiled from five sources including:

  • The Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP)
  • Data on Hospital Characteristics from New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS)
  • Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS)
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • New Jersey nurse survey data

Public Health Relevance: Each year thousands of hospitalized patients experience an adverse event that is a direct result of healthcare.  This study will determine if the implementation of the electronic health record is associated with the quality of nursing care delivery and the outcomes of hospitalized patients.  This will impact public health by generating knowledge that can be used to direct valuable resources that will have the greatest positive effect for hospital patients.

Members of Amanda Hessels’ Research Committee include:

Linda Flynn, PhD, RN, FAAN, Chair, Rutgers University, College of Nursing; 

Edna Cadmus, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, Rutgers University, College of Nursing;

Jeannie Cimiotti, DNSc, RN, Rutgers University, College of Nursing;

Robyn R. Gershon, MHS, DrPH, Professor, Department of Epidemiology and  Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine;

Suzanne Bakken, DNSc, RN, FAAN, FACMI, Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Columbia University, School of Nursing  


High-resolution image of Amanda Hessels

For more information, please contact: Larry Cowen, Director of Development, College of Nursing, p. 973-353-5588; f.  973-353-1035;