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 Two Nursing Faculty Win National Research Award

Two Nursing Faculty Win National Research Award

(EDWARDSVILLE, Ill.) Two Southern Illinois University Edwardsville scholars are being honored for their research into nursing attitudes toward breastfeeding. At its annual convention in Los Angeles last week, the Association of Women's Health Obstetrical and Neonatal Nursing (AWHONN), a national infant and nurse advocacy group, honored Professor Laura Bernaix and Associate Professor Cindy Schmidt, both of the SIUE School of Nursing, who won the organization's Outstanding Research Paper award for their study of the influence of instruction on breastfeeding mothers.

Following a two-year study, the two recently helped produce a research paper based on their analysis of breast feeding, Impact of an Educational Intervention on Nurses' Breastfeeding Knowledge and Attitudes. "This is quite an achievement," said Marcia Maurer, dean of the SIUE School of Nursing. "This specialty organization counts among its members the most outstanding nurse researchers in the areas of women's health, obstetrics and neonatal care. We are very proud." The "educational intervention" study involved 240 nurses on the East Coast and in the Midwest. They were divided into experimental and control groups, and asked to respond to a 64-item questionnaire developed by Bernaix.

The results unmistakably showed improved breastfeeding rates among new mothers who received help from nurses who were knowledgeable about its impact on the health of both infants and mothers. Also teaming up with the two SIUE educators and sharing the award were Judith Harris and Linda Miller, two nurses from Oklahoma, as well as retired SIUE Nursing Professor Margaret Beaman. Several years ago after meeting and consulting with Bernaix at a nursing conference, Harris and Miller began investigating the connection between nursing attitudes toward breastfeeding and its success with new mothers.

They later contacted Bernaix about working together for a broader investigation. "They decided it was time to design a much larger study," said Bernaix, whose specialty is in breastfeeding. "It's one of those topics that everyone appreciates along the way, but it's just now starting to get more recognition from major national organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics. It's now getting the attention it's deserved all along."

Schmidt said she was "very excited and completely surprised" to learn of the honor. "I didn't even know there was such an award," she said with a laugh. Bernaix pointed out if nurses are empowered with knowledge, their support and intentions greatly improve. "If you know something about a topic," she said, "you're more apt to do more and be able to act, as opposed to being less likely to jump in."

AWHONN is a 22,000-member nonprofit group that educates and supports nurses who care for women and newborns. The study will be published within a year in AWHONN's Journal of Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing.

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