Research

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Verna Hendricks-Ferguson

Verna Hendricks-Ferguson, PhD, RN, Professor, received an R21 grant of $291,106 from the National Institutes of Health – National Institute of Nursing Research (NIH-NINR) to determine the best strategy and time period for health care providers to discuss palliative care and end-of-life information with parents of children with brain tumors who have a poor prognosis.

R21 grants are intended to encourage exploratory/developmental research by providing support for early and conceptual stages of project development. The study has been funded over a two-year period (2009-2011).

Dr. Hendricks-Ferguson is the first faculty member at Barnes-Jewish College to successfully receive NIH-NINR funding. This R21 study builds upon her previous work during a three-year, T32 NIH-NINR funded post-doctoral fellowship at the Indiana University School of Nursing.

Early communication about palliative care and end-of-life is considered a high priority by the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Yet health care providers are reluctant to initiate the discussion because parents may show resistance to receiving such information and the information may diminish parents’ hope for their child’s survival while still in treatment.

Dr. Hendricks-Ferguson’s research involves designing a communication intervention in which the health care team initiates the discussion within two weeks after prognosis of the disease. She says the study may help health care providers learn ways to provide timely information in sensitive ways in order for parents to make decisions regarding starting and/or ending treatments, and advanced care planning.