Nurses in several specialties are forging an evolution in community nursing

By Heather Stringer

as leaders who excel in their fields. They were among the winners of the recent Culture of Health: Breakthrough Leaders in Nursing Award from the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, a joint initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Below they share how they promote change and better serve the needs of their patients and communities through research initiatives, interventions and educational programs.

H Leanne Lefler: Change agent for the geriatric population

Leanne Lefler, PhD, APRN, worked in cardiovascular care for 17 years when she decided to enroll in graduate school. Throughout her years at the bedside, she couldn’t ignore that older female patients suffered more complications after heart surgery than their male counterparts, and she felt compelled to find solutions.

“As soon as I figured out that I could change health outcomes by doing research, I immedi-

ately knew what I wanted to do — pursue a career in academia,” she said. “I’m always partial toward those who need the most help, and I wanted to do whatever I could to help populations in this country that are marginalized.”

Now an associate professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Arkansas, Lefler is conducting research studies focused on improving cardiac health in older adults, funded by

the National Institutes of Health. In March 2015, she finished a three-year clinical trial aimed at improving their physical activity. As part of the study, she designed an intervention in which older women learned realistic ways they could improve their health with exercise. “I felt like the intervention really changed the beliefs of these women about what they could do to stay healthy,” Lefler said. “It was sometimes simple changes like gardening more vigorously or walking through a grocery store longer than usual. I believe women are often leaders in their communities, and if I can influence their beliefs, they can have a large impact.”

Lefler also is passionate about making healthy living more accessible in marginalized

communities. “We used to blame individuals for their health problems, but health is really influenced by communities and peers,” she said. “Many communities have limited access to healthy food or places where they can exercise for free. I hope my research can help us move toward new policies and infrastructure.”

To promote change, Lefler worked with the Arkansas Action Coalition — one of the

state coalitions connected to the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action — to write an educational grant promoting nurse practitioner education in rural parts of Arkansas.

16 MARCH/APRIL 2016 • MIDWEST “ I’m always partial toward

those who need the most help …

ealthcare is undergoing a transformation as providers and caregivers increasingly value the importance of community care. Nurses are at the forefront of this trend as they develop innovative ways to bring their expertise into their communities. These four nurses span four different specialties — geriatrics, mental health, home health and school nursing — and are recognized

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