By Geneva Slupski
Angela Clark, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN, FAHA, known for the study, “Family Presence During Invasive Procedures and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation,” remembers a time when fathers weren’t allowed in delivery rooms during childbirth for fear they might faint or be unable to handle the experience.
Clark, who began her career at the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing in 1974 and today holds faculty emeritus status there, said a similar fear once existed about the idea of family members being able to stay with their loved ones during invasive procedures and resuscitation.
Clark began researching this issue in the mid-1990s with her colleague, Cathie Guzzetta, PhD, RN, FAAN, FAHA, and a team of clinicians. That research led to a well-publicized study, “Family Presence During Invasive Procedures and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.” The findings of the study led to several other studies on the topic, publications and mentoring for other healthcare professionals, Clark said.
She and Guzzetta were honored in October by the American Academy of Nursing as being among the 50 nurses who have received the prestigious Edge Runner status in the past few years. Clark and Guzzetta also were named Edge Runners in 2006. Clark recently spoke to Nurse.com about the honor and her research.
Q What does this honor mean for you?
Clark: It is a wonderful honor because it recognizes the dissemination of research and the work of multiple others who have worked to incorporate family presence into practice.
Q: What made you decide to become a nurse? How did that path eventually lead to research?
Clark: I was always interested in science. When I was in high school, two of my relatives had heart disease conditions. I was simply fascinated by cardiac physiology as I began to try to understand what had happened to them. I chose nursing, but eventually did a PhD minor in physiology — always trying to understand the effects of our nursing interventions on the human body. That was a natural lead into research.
Q: What first prompted your interest in the area of family presence?
Clark: My interest was prompted by a wonderful colleague and friend, Dr. Cathie Guzzetta, who called me back in the mid-1990s and convinced me to work with her and a team of clinicians at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. Their goal was to study instances of family presence in the emergency department there to see how families coped, how they valued it and what the event might be like for healthcare providers also. Family presence was not widespread at the time and their thinking was to do a research study to actually measure outcomes.
Q: What was the first finding from your research that most surprised you?
Clark: The finding that most surprised me was the incredible positive response of family members to the experience — 96% of them praised the experience and would want it again.
Q: What are some of the national policy changes that have come about because of your
Clark: Our research, as well as that of others, has brought about amazing policy changes. Family presence is now recommended by numerous national and international groups, including the Emergency Nurses Association, the American Heart Association, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Emergency Physicians. Most recommend that providers offer family members the option of remaining with their loved ones during resuscitation efforts.
Q: How did you bring your research into the classroom at UT at Austin School of Nursing?
Clark: I introduced the topic into the curriculum years ago, describing the research findings and showing videotapes of family interviews done to support the topic, as well as clips of some of the media coverage.
Q: How has your research shaped your career?
Clark: As a nurse researcher, I have been fortunate to contribute to multiple publications to disseminate findings and recommendations. I think that research provides a unique opportunity to influence practice and build evidence for best practices in patient care. •