Nursing student receives $81,500 Hartford Foundation award for research on emotional responses to chronic illnesses

AUSTIN, Texas—A University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing doctoral candidate has received a two-year $81,500 award from the John A. Hartford Foundation to study chronic illnesses and the feelings associated with diseases like heart failure.

Carol Delville will examine emotional adjustments and responses to living with symptoms related to heart failure, an area she says has been understudied. Past studies on heart failure have focused on lifestyle changes, diet, exercise, weight loss and medication.

“Emotional response is a complex process,” said Delville. “Its influence on health promoting maintenance decisions in individuals with a chronic illness is not fully understood.

“Learning to live with a chronic disease such as heart failure requires emotional adjustment in order to make the right decisions. Lack of emotional adjustment can have negative results on disease progression and health management decisions.”

Nurses, said Delville, are ideally placed to listen to and assess how symptoms are emotionally expressed and experienced, and to design and implement interventions to help the patient in the management of emotional responses.

Delville will examine physiological, language and hormone changes, resulting from emotional responses to heart failure symptoms. Her study includes enzyme and hormone changes found in saliva that reflect an individual’s emotional state.

“The School of Nursing is very proud that Carol was selected a Hartford Foundation 2006-2008 scholar,” said Dr. Graham McDougall, professor of nursing and Delville’s mentor and adviser for the research.

“The foundation recognizes that Carol is a future academic and clinical nurse leader who is ‘aging savvy’—knowledgeable and skilled in addressing the unique health care needs of older adults.”

Chronic heart failure is a disease of aging and affects one in 56 Americans with more than 550,000 new cases diagnosed each year, according to the American Heart Association. It is the most common diagnosis listed for hospitalized patients over 65.

The award is part of the Nurse Scholars and Fellows in the Building Academic Geriatric Nursing Capacity program of the Hartford Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies.

For more information contact: Nancy Neff, School of Nursing, 512-471-6504.