Lora Beebe, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC
2010 Award for Excellence in Research

Lora Beebe, PhD, PMHNP-BC, an Associate Professor at the University Of Tennessee College Of Nursing, loves to research. “The main thing,” she says, “is that I believe patients deserve treatments that are tested and have evidence of efficacy.” But she also loves the process of research itself. She likes that “researchers have to combine the ‘thinking’ portion of nursing,” such as literature review, project planning and design, with “the ‘doing’ of actually conducting the project, which involves interactions with participants and other practitioners of different disciplines.” To that end, she has pursued two threads of studies along parallel tracks, each study building upon its predecessor.

Her first track: phone interventions to reduce the amount and length of patients’ readmissions to the hospital. “The first study looked at weekly telephone interventions and readmissions and found that patients who received a weekly call had fewer and shorter days if readmitted,” she explains. Her next study further refined the procedure. It “determined that persons receiving weekly calls responded better if they…met the nurse who called them face-to-face before the calls began.” The study following this one examined the mechanisms behind the results, how the weekly calls helped the patients. “We determined that those receiving the calls had significantly higher adherence to their psych meds, as documented by in-home pill counts by research staff.” She completed the most recent study earlier this year. It took the research one step further, piloting the “use of cell phones instead of land lines to determine if it is feasible to provide cellular telephones to persons with these illnesses.”

Her second thread of research sought to unravel the issue of how to encourage persons with schizophrenia spectrum disorders to exercise. Big on fitness herself, she first piloted a 16 week walking program which “found that persons with SSDs had significantly less body fat at the conclusion, as well as fewer positive symptoms.” Of what she learned, Beebe says, it “helped me design the walking program and stretching exercises (warm up and cool down) for use with this group, and also demonstrated the need for some sort of motivational intervention to help people adhere” to the program. So she then began work on a study designed to test motivational intervention. Completed in December of 2009, “the motivational intervention is a series of four weekly hour-long groups that give information about the basics of walking for exercise,” she says. In the end, she says, “people who received the motivational intervention had significantly higher self efficacy, attended more walking groups, walked more steps, and adhered to walking for more weeks” than those in the control group. Beebe is continuing her research, currently preparing an RO1 submission.

When asked what her favorite part of the research process is, her answer is surprising! “I would have to say that I enjoy the minutiae of the planning process, checking the literature to see what is out there, looking at theoretical frameworks, developing hypotheses and thinking through the design elements, even more than actually collecting the data--I know that’s weird!” she laughs. Beyond researching to ensure that patients receive well tested and effective treatments, and for the sheer pleasure of it, Beebe also seeks to advocate for nursing. She says, “My other soapbox is bringing nursing science the status it deserves [through] contributions to scholarly literature of work done by nurses.” ~It sounds like this is exactly what she is doing!