Nursing-led IBD research projects are shaping the future of patient care

Noelle Rohatinsky and Tracie Risling
Nurses play an important role in the patient journey, whether it is by providing clinical inpatient or outpatient care, telemedicine, transitional care, or through biologic therapy support. An often less well recognized area of nursing expertise is research, where nurses bring their expertise regarding the healthcare system, patient needs, and challenges.

In Canada, there are over 80 inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) nurses, with many more that provide care to people living with IBD as part of their practice. The Canadian IBD Nurses (CANIBD) is a pan-Canadian group of nurses who closely work with IBD patients with the purpose of elevating the IBD nursing profession, ensuring access to the latest advances in IBD care, and strengthening capacity for nurses in IBD.

Among CANIBD’s program offerings is an annual research grant valued at $15,000 to support a nurse-led research project. This grant supports small clinical research pilot projects intended to improve IBD patient care and quality of life. Most nurses do not have dedicated time to lead research studies, or opportunities to enhance their research skills. This grant provides the opportunity to do both. 

This year, the grant program will enter its fourth year. As we look forward to this year’s grant competition, we are looking back at the progress and accomplishments of the first three recipients of this grant.

Peter Habashi
Peter Habashi

Addressing Depression and Anxiety Symptoms in Patients with IBD
Peter Habashi, 2018 CANIBD Nursing Grant Recipient

Patients with IBD experience a higher prevalence of anxiety and depression compared to the general population. The higher prevalence has been linked to a number of factors including IBD patients’ increased risk of surgery and relapses, treatment failure, increased use of health care, and lower self-reported quality of life, satisfaction, and consistent use of medication. Despite our knowledge of these existing links, anxiety and depression are often under-recognized and undertreated. 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a psychological treatment that has received support for its use in treating anxiety and depression. As a structured and time-limited form of psychotherapy, CBT helps patients change how their own thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs relate to their emotional and behavioural reactions.

With this in mind, Peter Habashi, Research Coordinator at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, is evaluating the efficacy of a web-based CBT intervention in alleviating anxiety and depression among a group of adult IBD patients by measuring its impact on clinical and self-reported outcomes. In addition, the study will assess the durability of web-based CBT on maintaining improved psychiatric symptoms within a separate group of study participants. Finally, Peter will evaluate the impact of web-based CBT on IBD-specific, psychiatric-specific, and all-cost healthcare utilization. The study’s results will help us better understand how CBT might be an effective therapy for people with IBD who experience anxiety and depression.

Usha Chauhan
Usha Chauhan

Understanding Patients’ Perceptions of Fecal Microbiota Transplant
Usha Chauhan, 2017 CANIBD Nursing Grant Recipient

Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) has recently emerged as a popular new therapy for people living with IBD. By administering stool from a healthy donor to a patient with an underlying gastrointestinal condition, this treatment aims to restore the environment within the gut to that of a healthy individual. 

The emergence of novel therapies like FMT is exciting and needs further exploration. We currently do not have a good understanding of how patients accept this treatment —including those who have already undergone the treatment. Usha Chauhan’s study is the first of its kind to evaluate the perceptions of people living with ulcerative colitis who have been treated with FMT through face-to-face, semi-structured interviews. 

With interim analysis complete and final analysis well underway, Usha and her team will soon publish results, allowing us to improve our understanding of the future of FMT.

Tracie Risling
Tracie Risling

Noelle Rohatinsky
Noelle Rohatinsky

Healthcare Transition in Pediatrics and Young Adults with Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Scoping Review
Tracie Risling and Noelle Rohatinsky, 2016 CANIBD Nursing Research Grant Recipient

With a passion for improving support in healthcare transition (HCT), Dr. Tracie Risling and Dr. Noelle Rohatinsky began working with pediatric IBD patients and their families in Saskatchewan to explore the challenges they face in transitioning to adult care. Early in their careers, Dr. Risling and Dr. Rohatinsky completed a pilot study on the use of technology in managing challenges in HCT prior to designing a mobile app through collaboration with patients and their parents. 

As recipients of the CANIBD Nursing-Led Research Grant, the researchers are currently driving a project focused on translating the experiences of over 50 Canadian IBD nurses into an evidence-based best practice in adolescent HCT transition assessment and support. 

Dr. Risling and Dr. Rohatinsky established three project goals pertaining to Canadian adolescents and IBD. The first goal, which they recently completed, is a scoping review on HCT literature with a specific focus on transition readiness and disease management tools. Their second goal is to conduct a national survey of IBD nurses on key HCT elements integrated in the review to prioritize transition needs. Finally, they will focus on creating a pilot tool to support nurses in assessing transition needs and readiness. 

With science advancing every day, Dr. Risling and Dr. Rohatinsky will compare the results of their study to HCT findings – particularly for readiness assessment – and tools recommended by other Canadian IBD groups to identify how the experience and expertise of nurses are represented. Their commitment to creating collaborative teams to expand the lasting impact of current and future research shines through this project. 

Are you a nurse who would like to undertake a small clinical research pilot project that will improve IBD patient care and quality of life? The deadline for this year’s Nursing-Led Research Grant is Monday, June 3, 2019. Apply today.

Interested in learning more about IBD nursing and the Canadian IBD Nurses group? Click here.

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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