KCON research projects touch different populations

Jennifer Ohman, a nursing doctoral student, puts eye-tracking glasses on Brandy Alexander, an undergraduate nursing student. Both are part of Rebecca Davis' research team. Seated are, at left, Davis and Cathy Weisbeck.
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Jennifer Ohman, a nursing doctoral student, puts eye-tracking glasses on Brandy Alexander, an undergraduate nursing student. Both are part of Rebecca Davis' research team. Seated are, at left, Davis and Cathy Weisbeck.
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Current research projects by Kirkhof College of Nursing faculty members and students are reaching different West Michigan populations.

Rebecca Davis, associate professor of nursing, and her team are studying how people with Alzheimer’s disease find their way to a destination.

In Muskegon, Cindy Betterly, a doctoral nursing student, is leading a clinical project that could help decrease the number of low birth weight and preterm babies in that area.

Davis is using a projected virtual reality simulation of a retirement community and eye-tracking glasses to collect data. The computer program was designed by the University of Michigan Virtual 3D Lab, based on a floor plan and design from an area continuing care facility.

People in Davis’s study wear the glasses and move the joystick to guide their virtual self through a long, winding hallway to a destination. The glasses track where the eye looks; Davis is collecting data on whether colorful cues placed on the walls are helpful during navigation.

She is still seeking people for the study, both those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and those who do not have the disease but are 62 years old or older. People interested can contact Cathy Weisbeck at x15669 or weisbeca@gvsu.edu.

Davis earned a $316,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct the study. Her research team includes undergraduate and graduates nursing students.

Betterly’s clinical dissertation focuses on increasing the health literacy of women who participate in the Muskegon Area Pregnancy Pathways program.

Betterly works with Pathways clients to help them better understand what health care resources are available, and how to advocate for themselves. “It’s also making sure they implement their health literacy comprehension,” Betterly said. “Are they following directions if they understand, and acting on what their provider is telling them?”

She is using a tool, “Ask Me 3,” developed several years ago by the National Patient Safety Foundation, and transforming it for her clients. Ask Me 3 encourages patients to write down three questions before they see a health care provider.

Muskegon has a higher percentage of low birth weight babies, children in poverty and people who are uninsured than Michigan and the U.S. Betterly said those factors, and others, contribute to high-risk pregnancies.