American Nurses Foundation Scholar Works to Better Understand HIV Prevention

m Bookmark and Share

Tanyka Smith, MS, FNP-Certified, RN, a PhD student at the New York University College of Nursing received a 2010 American Nurses Foundation research grant made possible by the generosity of donors who support nursing innovation through research. The American Nurses Foundation’s work with nurse scholars helps nurses like Smith advance the profession. We sat down with her to find out more about her research and how the Foundation has helped her achieve her research goals.

Why did you decide to pursue a doctoral degree, and what in health care did you want to change?

Why did you decide to pursue a doctoral degree, and what in health care did you want to change? My decision to pursue a doctoral degree in nursing stemmed from my desire to eliminate health disparities among underserved populations. I have been in the nursing field for more than 13 years. In the years following my undergraduate experience, I worked extensively in the emergency department with ethnic minority populations who generally had poor health and lacked preventative health care. A master’s degree as a family nurse practitioner provided me with the skills necessary to provide comprehensive primary, holistic preventative health care for underserved populations in urban ambulatory settings. However, in the day-to-day realities of practice, I realized that as a master’s-prepared nurse, I was not fully equipped to construct and implement evidence-based health interventions that could truly prevent diseases like HIV, diabetes, and hypertension. Doctoral-level training lets me conduct scientific research in areas relevant to clinical care of minority and otherwise disadvantaged population groups and develop interventions that get to the core of health issues.

At what health outcome or intervention is your research focused? How will it help nurses? How will it help patients?

I am focused on understanding and addressing health disparities among ethnic minorities — with a specific focus on HIV prevention in African-American women. My research examines socio-cultural factors that contribute to HIV risk among older African-American women, now among the fastest growing populations of new HIV cases. By examining variables, such as gender power dynamics and attitudes, beliefs, and other theoretical constructs specific to this population, I hope to develop new insight into the complexities of HIV risk among older African-American women and what is needed to provide effective, culturally relevant, and age appropriate health care.

What did your American Nurses Foundation research grant enable you to do?

I conducted a preliminary qualitative study entitled “Sexual Protective Strategies and Condom Use among Older African American women.” The results of this qualitative study shaped my current quantitative dissertation study and guided the adaptation of the instruments used in my dissertation. The Foundation's funding was vital in providing me with the foundation for gaining “hands on” experience as a novice nurse scientist that is essential for my ultimate development into an independent researcher.

What do you wish the public knew more about nursing?

Nursing is a multifaceted profession that goes beyond the bedside and encompasses unending scholastic development and leadership. The nursing profession builds knowledge and leadership through education, research, cultural competency, advocacy, and program and policy development. Nurses collaborate with other disciplines to improve health outcomes of individuals, families, and communities.

For more information on how you can support nursing programs

— Kate Judge is the executive director of the American Nurses Foundation. (published in The American Nurse June 2012)