Author: Gretchel Gealogo | Category: Final Words... | Nursing Science (Ph.D.) | May 01, 2015
Congratulations Gretchel Gealogo, the newest graduate from the Nursing Science Ph.D. program, for successfully defending your dissertation "A
light in the dark”: development of a conceptual model for person-engaged
Why did you pick UT Health Science Center and
I first came to
UTHSCSA in fall 2007 as a student in the School of Nursing’s second Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing cohort, and never really ended my formal nursing education. During my last semester of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program—spring 2009—I was recruited by a faculty mentor to continue on to the Nursing Science Ph.D. program that fall.
At the time, we
were required to obtain an Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) en route to the Ph.D., so I began my MSN program
in Administration in Community and Health Systems in fall 2009. I completed that program in May 2011 and
began my Ph.D. coursework that same month.
enjoyed my learning experience in San Antonio during my undergraduate program, from
so many incredible mentors at the school, in the nursing workforce, and in the
It made sense to
continue my journey there. I’ve commuted
to and from the Austin area for both work and school during most of my time as
a UTHSCSA student, and don’t regret a single mile I’ve driven.
Why are you passionate about your research
topic? How did you first become interested in it?
I’d only been a
nurse for about six months. I was
working a night shift on a medical-surgical unit and was assigned a patient with
a fractured arm who was also recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I discovered she’d been agitated all day
because her pain had been undertreated.
She couldn’t effectively verbalize her needs, and staff couldn’t
effectively interpret her behavior as her way of conveying her pain.
Thankfully, with trial and error, this
patient and I were able to work together on a plan of care, and we made it
through the night safely. Before I left,
she said to me, with tears in her eyes, “You know, I know I’m losing it.” And it shook me.
changed the way I thought of and took care of my patients, especially those
with dementia. It made me realize that
if we clinicians weren’t doing a good job of assessing and addressing pain in
patients who we perceived as less effective at communicating their needs, what
else were we missing?
Please provide a few sentences summarizing your
interested in community-based and alternative models for dementia care, and
discovered that in the U.S., adult day programs were the most popular care
delivery option used by caregivers of persons with dementia who still lived at
After canvassing several programs,
I found an innovative program that had a great reputation, longevity, and
successful outcomes. It served as my
dissertation study site, and I relocated to and lived in that community for
The data I collected helped
me refine a proposed conceptual model for what I call person-engaged
dementia care, which is based on the premise that persons with dementia are
health care consumers who contribute to their health care and organizational
What did you learn during your graduate student
has the power to transform not only the “researched” but also the researcher. I met and worked with so many incredible
people during my pilot and dissertation study—people who, quite frankly, became
Using my dissertation to
build a program of science in care systems theory absolutely changed and will
continue to change the way I live in my world as a clinician, researcher,
teacher, neighbor, caregiver, daughter, and person.
I work for Seton Healthcare in Austin, where I
split my work week between clinical practice at the bedside
and helping refine or develop
system-wide nursing educational initiatives. I’m developing
parts of my dissertation into mass-market and research methods book
manuscripts, and submitting abstracts on my dissertation work for
upcoming scientific meetings. This fall, I'll be launching my
own business—a consulting firm that will provide nursing workforce coaching in
person-engaged care for health care teams and organizations that
serve the elderly.
Any advice for your fellow graduate students?
Think outside the
box whenever and however you can. If
we’re not using our research to transform our world, then what’s the point?
To read an article about how the "Nursing Science Ph.D. Helps Fill Demand for Nurses With Doctorate Degrees," please click here.