Spotlight on Nursing Research//Veterans Administration Quality Scholar

Photo by Joe Howell.

Maybe it’s her intense respect for military veterans like her father and grandfather, or perhaps it’s because of a chance encounter with an inspiring Mississippi resident during hurricane relief efforts.  One thing is for certain, LisaMarie Wands is interested in how people move through traumatic events.

Wands, PhD, MS, RN, recently joined Vanderbilt University School of Nursing as a post-doctoral fellow and Veterans Administration (VA) National Quality Scholar. During this two-year fellowship, she will gain the research skills necessary to improve health care for our nation’s veterans.

“By coming to know the VA organization from an insider’s point of view, I hope to identify any gaps and come up with ways to address those gaps so veterans receive the care they need,” said Wands.

This national program includes Vanderbilt and seven other institutions throughout the country.  Wands is part of an interdisciplinary team of physicians and nurses participating in a structured curriculum.  In addition, each fellow develops and executes a quality improvement program.

“This opportunity is possible because of the cooperation between the Veterans Administration and the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and is a wonderful  example of our ever-expanding nursing research efforts,” said Ann Minnick, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior associate dean for Research at VUSN.

In addition to the VA National Quality Scholars Program, Wands’ desire to look at health in an ongoing and holistic manner has made her particularly interested in the coming home experience for veterans.  She co-authored “A Lifelong Journey of Moving Beyond Wartime Trauma for Survivors from Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor” in Advances in Nursing Science.

“We interviewed some people who told their stories a lot and some people who never had told their stories,” said Wands.  “There is no World War II veteran younger than 80 years old, and we went to one gentleman’s house who had never told anyone about his experience.  He thought he had it all figured out, but you could see how it affected him.”

Her doctoral dissertation at Florida Atlantic University focused on the coming home experience of military members involved in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I was told by participants in my dissertation study that coming home was just as bad as being there,” said Wands.

Wands knows first-hand.  While serving as a relief worker delivering hot meals in Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina 2001, she met people who had lost all of their material belongings in the surge waters.
“I remember this young, married couple who lost their new dream house to the floods, leaving only the home’s foundation.  They were clearing debris with a backhoe when the woman saw a piece of her grandmother’s china sticking out of the mud.  The plate was intact and didn’t have a scratch on it.  It was a beacon of hope for her in moving forward.  She brought the plate to the relief shelters and shared it with everyone who would listen.  That experience bowled me over.”

– Kathy Rivers