Watch videos about nursing research at Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota, and about division leaders' research focus areas.

Linda L. Chlan, Ph.D., R.N., ATSF, FAAN — Nursing Research in Rochester, Minnesota

At the core of the Mayo Clinic nursing research division are Ph.D.-prepared nurses conducting care-focused, clinically relevant research to better serve patients.

Linda L. Chlan, Ph.D., R.N., ATSF, FAAN — My Interest of Study

Dr. Chlan's patient-centered research to improve care for patients receiving ventilatory support grew out of her time at the bedside in the intensive care unit.

Sherry S. Chesak, Ph.D., M.S., R.N. — My Interest of Study

Dr. Chesak's research on care for the caregiver addresses the increasing levels of stress and burnout of professional health care providers and lay or family caregivers across the nation.

My name is Sherry Chesak, and I am a Nurse Scientist in the Division of Nursing Research and the Department of Nursing. I earned a Master’s of Science degree in Nursing Education from Winona State University, and a Ph.D. in Nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

My program of research is centered on care for the caregiver, both professional and lay caregivers, or family caregivers. My concern for the increasing trend in stress and burnout experienced by health care providers across the nation and its potential negative impact on the quality of care that they provide to patients, has led me to investigate interventions that are effective in decreasing stress and enhancing provider resilience.

63% of nurses and a little over half of physicians in the U.S. recently reported that their work has caused burnout, which has been found to lead to serious mental and physical ailments. We are learning however, that proactive interventions can positively impact health care provider resilience. Outcomes of mindfulness practices have recently been studied robustly, and there is empirical support for its positive effects, such as decreased stress, rumination and emotional reactivity, and improved cognitive flexibility and relationship satisfaction, among other benefits. The practice of resilience principles has also been found to have multiple benefits, including improvements in stress, burnout and empathy.

I have conducted multiple multidisciplinary trials that have investigated the use of mindfulness- and resilience-based interventions for health care providers. I have collaborated with Dr. Amit Sood here at Mayo Clinic in investigating outcomes of his stress management and resiliency training program for nursing students, nurse residents and experienced nurses, as well as other professionals, such as public school teachers.

I have also work with Dr. Suniya Luthar at Arizona State University, and Drs. Anjali Bhagra and Sue Cutshall here at Mayo Clinic in the implementation of a peer-group intervention titled Authentic Connections, which was designed by Dr. Luthar, and is a supportive, structured intervention aimed at reducing burnout and fostering resilience among mothers experiencing stress. Past studies by Dr. Luthar have identified positive outcomes of the intervention with women physicians and military moms. We are currently studying the effects of the program on resilience- and nurse-leaders who are mothers here at Mayo Clinic.

The next step for my research career is to focus on care for the lay caregiver. Family members, friends and other supportive individuals take major responsibility in the care of their loved ones who are facing acute and chronic illnesses. They are often thrust into their role unexpectedly, and are responsible for supporting the patient not just physically, but psychologically, spiritually and emotionally. The weight of these responsibilities can lead to many negative physical and emotional symptoms. I aim to identify best practices for supporting lay caregivers in the difficult work that they do, and fostering their resilience. I will continue to focus on interventions that incorporate mindfulness and resiliency practices. These practices have been found to be developed through coaching, which entails partnering with participants in a creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal potential.

Therefore, as an overarching goal of my program of research, I aim to answer important scientific questions regarding how to best support the resiliency of both professional and lay caregivers in the important work that they do in the care of patients.

Samantha Conley, Ph.D., R.N. — Nursing Research Area of Interest

Dr. Conley explains her area of research interest: inflammatory bowel disease.

Hi, my name is Samantha Connolly and I'm a Nurse Scientist at Mayo Clinic. I completed my master's degree in nursing at the University of Michigan and my Ph.D. and postdoctoral training in nursing at Yale University with a focus on self and family management. My research focuses on the self-management of symptoms in people with chronic conditions. I am particularly interested in young adults with inflammatory bowel disease.

Inflammatory bowel disease includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis and is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal track. Most people with inflammatory bowel disease experience many symptoms, even during periods of inactive disease, including pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance. However, these symptoms do not occur in isolation, and most people with IBD experience at least two of these symptoms at once. These outcomes are especially alarming, as half of people with inflammatory bowel disease are diagnosed before the age of 30, and IBD can disrupt education, career plans, and family rearing.

The goal of my research is to help people with inflammatory bowel disease better manage their symptoms, to improve their well-being and daily functioning.

My research has two main focuses. First, I aim to better understand what causes symptoms in people with IBD. One key area that I research is sleep, because sleep is a restorative process that is essential for everyone's well-being. Poor sleep is common in people with IBD, and they experience both short and disrupted sleep. I am interested in how sleep health impacts symptoms in people with IBD, so we can determine the type and timing of sleep interventions needed to improve their symptom burden.

My second focus is on the development and testing of precision symptom management interventions. Better understanding the right intervention, for the right person, at the right time will help us to know how and when to offer symptom management interventions. My research team hopes to offer evidence-based interventions to people with inflammatory bowel disease that they can integrate into their daily lives to improve their symptoms and promote their well-being.

Thank you.

Heidi L. Lindroth, Ph.D., R.N. — My Interest of Study

Nursing researcher Heidi L. Lindroth, Ph.D., R.N., describes her area of research and what motivates her goal to eliminate delirium in patients.

Hi, my name is Heidi Lindroth. I am a nurse scientist and practicing critical care nurse at Mayo Clinic.

My vision is a world without delirium. Delirium is a type of an acute brain failure that people experience after an acute event like a surgery, an infection or a traumatic event like a car accident.

Imagine, if your loved one went into the hospital for an elective surgery and while the surgery itself went well, they experienced delirium after surgery and their lives were forever changed. Delirium independently increases the risk of death, both in the hospital and after discharge.

People who experience delirium are more likely to need an institutional facility after discharge from the hospital instead of returning home. They are also more likely to experience declines in both their thinking (or cognition) and function.

In addition to all of this, it is a terrifying experience. A quote from one of my colleagues and a delirium survivor, Mark Hudson, illustrates his experience with delirium well. He says, "Words can't do justice to the horror, terror and fear I experienced while suffering from delirium."

Now my goal is to stop this from happening: to prevent delirium. I am collaborating with an amazing international team of scientists and clinicians, at Mayo Clinic and beyond, to reach this goal. My program of research focuses on anything that will move the needle toward that goal.

This includes the vulnerability to delirium, identifying at-risk individuals and predicting delirium. Building on all available evidence we strive to prevent delirium by finding innovative, scalable, and sustainable solutions to individualize care and mitigate the symptoms and severity of delirium. In other words, identifying things that all of us can do and things that will work.

The patient is central to everything I do. I believe clinical care and research go together. We make our best advancements when we work as part of a team and that is why I am a team research scientist.

I received my Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin-Madison with a focus in neuroscience. My postdoctoral fellowship was at Indiana University where I trained in agile methodologies. And I am honored to be a part of Mayo Clinic. Thank you for listening.

Cindy Tofthagen, Ph.D., ARNP, AOCNP, FAANP, FAAN — My Interest of Study

Dr. Tofthagen's research addresses toxicities of cancer therapies — including psychosocial concerns — and decision-making at end of life.

Hi, my name's Dr. Cindy Tofthagen. I'm a Nurse Scientist here at Mayo Clinic Florida, and I conduct research on management of cancer-related symptoms. Cancer treatments have side effects that create a significant physical, emotional and financial burden for patients, as well as their families. The goal of my research is to find effective ways to prevent or treat these side effects and help patients better manage side effects at home.

The focus of my research is really in three main areas:

The first is chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. My research tests interventions to improve balance, reduce falls and control symptoms of this long-term side effect of many common chemotherapy drugs.

Psychologic distress associated with cancer. A cancer diagnosis is associated with uncertainty, anxiety, depression and other negative emotions that negatively influence health.

Pain. Cancer treatment-related pain, like muscle or joint pain caused by drugs used in cancer treatment, are difficult to control and increase suffering. My background as an oncology nurse guides my research, which focuses on two priorities. First of all, areas of high concern to patients, and second, symptoms for which effective treatments are needed.

By focusing on these areas where there is great need, my research team and I hope to offer effective solutions to important clinical problems that trouble patients.