This month, the Oncology Nursing Foundation announced that University of Arizona College of Nursing PhD student Karen Anderson was selected as a recipient of an Oncology Nursing Foundation Research Doctoral Scholarship. The $5,000 award will aid Anderson during the 2019-2020 academic term. Currently in her second year in Arizona Nursing’s PhD program, Anderson earned a degree in Nutrition at Northern Arizona University before returning to school to pursue a career in nursing. After stints in Washington D.C. and Seattle, she returned to Tucson, where she stays busy as a full-time nurse manager and PhD student.
Why did you pursue a career in Nursing?
I became a nursing assistant in high school, so it was something I thought I was going to do from a really young age. I really like how holistic it is. You can help the patient across multiple issues and every single day is different.
"It’s validating and a really great honor to know that what I research and study is of value. It’s also a great encouragement for nurses to continue in higher education.” ~ Karen Anderson, Arizona Nursing PhD Student
Why did you choose Arizona Nursing?
I love Arizona. The other two big pieces for me were the ease of the application process compared to a lot of other places I looked at. And then the faculty. Being an oncology nurse, I’m interested in informatics and Arizona Nursing has stellar faculty in both of those areas.
How did you come to focus on oncology?
Because I had worked in a hospital setting, I liked the connection that oncology nurses had with their patients. They really got to know them and were deeply involved in their care. They developed relationships with patients that lasted years, so that was a strong connection that I was looking for.
Tell us about your oncology research?
I have spent most of my career working in bone marrow transplantation. We have a lot of new cellular immunotherapies that oncology patients are being treated with, so I’m interested in understanding how these therapies are assessed by nurses and how we partner with caregivers and patients to help manage the symptoms across the in-patient and out-patient environment.
What does receiving this scholarship mean to you?
It’s validating and a really great honor to know that what I research and study is of value. It’s also a great encouragement for nurses to continue in higher education.
Have you gotten the ball rolling with your dissertation?
I’m still in discussions with my advisor. After the first year, it’s really about determining what your approach is going to be, and how you hope to conduct your research. I’m hoping to focus on management of immunotherapy side effects.
Can you tell us about your mentorship with Dr. Jane Carrington?
Dr. Carrington was a really big draw for me at Arizona Nursing. She is very well-known and respected in the world of informatics. I’m really interested in her communication model and how that can be used in other areas like oncology. I find her to be incredibly approachable, extremely knowledgeable and also really encouraging. She’s also very funny. From the very first conversation with her, I thought, “This is somebody that I really hope to work with for my graduate education.”
What is the importance of combining your interest in oncology and informatics?
Some of it came from my professional experience. I came to understand how the Electronic Health Record (EHR) is a tool for communicating between health care providers and how it can also be a repository of data that can be used to study things that we have interest in in nursing. I really wanted to explore how we use that tool to help manage symptoms better for patients.
What are your plans for the future?
Right now, I am exploring. I’m not quite sure I’m interested in academia full time. I do have some interest in a role that blends academia with direct total care, like maybe a nurse scientist role in a health care system. At this point I really just seeing what’s out there and I’m hoping my doctoral education is going to show me what are other types of nursing scientist roles that are out there.