APNA Member Profile

Abir Bekhet, PhD, RN, HSMI

February 2013


How do we help vulnerable populations like children, nursing students, older adults and family caregivers go beyond just coping with challenges? How do we help them become stronger, more flexible, and healthier?  How do we help them thrive? These are the questions that nurse researcher Abir Bekhet, PhD, RN, HSMI has spent examining over the past several years. 

Bekhet is an assistant nursing professor and researcher at Marquette University and is currently enjoying a sabbatical after receiving the Way Klinger Young Scholar Award, one of the highest honors for research at the university. “I love research and I’m so proud to be a nurse researcher and a nurse scientist,” she says. “One of my professors once commented, ‘You have been born to be a researcher’, but I think I was born to be a teacher, a nurse, and a researcher.”

In 2011, Bekhet was a recipient of one of the American Psychiatric Nursing Foundation Research Grants, established by the Foundation to seed new psychiatric mental health nurses who are early in their research careers. Bekhet’s research proposal, entitled Effects of Positive Cognitions and Resourcefulness on Autism Spectrum Disorder Caregiver’s Burden?, represented an expansion on her previous resourcefulness and cognitions research. With encouragement from her mentor, Bekhet decided to apply after seeing previous recipients featured in an APNA email.

“The purpose of my study was to examine the mediating/moderating effects of positive cognitions (as protective factors) on the relationship between caregiver burdens (risk factor) and on resourcefulness (resilience indicator) in caregivers of persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD),” Bekhet explains. She recruited the 95 participants via convenience sampling from The IAN Research registry service, which is provided by the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins Medicine-Baltimore and sponsored by ASD Speaks Foundation.

The study’s results support the role of a protective factor in lessening the effects of burden on caregiver resourcefulness. In this particular study the protective factor being positive cognitions and caregiver resourcefulness being an indicator of resilience. “The results of this study provide direction for nurses and health care professionals who work with caregivers of persons with autism to include in their interventions strategies that strengthen positive cognitions and consequently decrease caregiver burden and enhance their resilience.”

Bekhet’s study received attention via a variety of venues – it was published in the December 2012 issue of JAPNA and featured on the www.MDLinx.com psychiatry site. In April 2012 she presented her research at the Midwest Nursing Research Society (MNRS).  “I received positive oral feedback about how this research was innovative and contributed to the body of nursing knowledge,” she says. “In fact, the funding that I got from APNA was very helpful and instrumental in conducting the study. I’m very grateful to APNA for funding my research; it is really a wonderful seed grant for my future and coming grants.”

Bekhet at the APNA 25th Annual
Conference Foundation Reception

APNA asked Bekhet a couple of questions:

What are the characteristics of a good researcher?

The characteristics of a good nurse researcher include being curious, honest, creative, eager to learn, and highly motivated.  The research journey is full of challenges and obstacles, so a good researcher needs to be patient and never give up.  He/she needs to possess good oral and written skills and needs to be knowledgeable and have considerable problem solving skills.  The good nurse researcher should have the ability to work as a member of a team and also be able to work independently.   He/she needs to be flexible and willing to learn from other experienced researchers by attending conferences and participating in continuing education.

What is on your plate right now?

I’m currently on sabbatical working on an intervention study that will be submitted for federal funding,  but my latest research project was entitled “Measuring use of positive thinking skills scale: Psychometric testing of a new scale”. Participants included caregivers of persons with autism and the study was based on the descriptive study funded by APNF.  This psychometric study examined the reliability and validity of an 8-item positive thinking Skills Scale (PTSS), which measures the frequency with which intervention recipients use specific positive thinking skills. Reviewing the literature demonstrated that there is no direct measure of intervention fidelity which is really needed to measure how well the positive thinking skills are, i.e. positive cognitions, were taught to the recipients.  This measure is an important addition to the literature and will inform a larger clinical trial that will involve teaching positive thinking skills to caregivers of persons with autism.  Of interest, this measure is not specific to caregivers of persons with autism; therefore it has a wide applicability with different vulnerable population.  This research was accepted for publication in WJNR last month.

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