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Vermont Quarterly

A strong voice for nurses’ research

Pamela Hinds
Pamela Hinds ’73


A strong voice for nurses’ research

By Jon Reidel G’06

Having juggled the roles of nurse, professor, and administrator, Pamela Hinds ’73 knows firsthand the challenges nurses face in trying to add conducting research to that mix: long work hours, a focus on patient care, and little time to earn advanced degrees.

The director of the Department of Nursing Research and Quality Outcomes at Children’s National Health System in Washington, DC, has spent decades creating research opportunities for nurses and debunking the notion that research among healthcare practitioners is solely the domain of doctors.

“Nurses have a lot to offer and their perspective and clinical expertise are becoming increasingly valued,” says Hinds, who earned her bachelor’s at UVM and master’s and doctorate from the University of Arizona. “We include at least one staff member in every study we conduct.”

Hinds’s efforts received a major boost in 2014 when she was named the inaugural recipient of the William and Joanne Conway Chair in Nursing Research. The $2.4 million fund is expected to transform the way healthcare is delivered to children by encouraging nurses to discover new approaches and translate them into practice. 

“The new chair is the first endowed chair in a hospital-based nursing research program and represents the commitment of nurses to generate new knowledge and then use that knowledge to make children’s health better in our nation and in our world,” says Hinds, who for twenty-three years led one of the only nursing research programs in the country at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.  “It’s very exciting.”

Hinds’s own groundbreaking research on children coping with fatigue and altered sleep patterns while undergoing treatment for pediatric cancers has resulted in successful changes in practice. In another study, she looked at the end-of-life decision-making process for children with cancer by documenting the reasons they make end-of-life decisions on their own behalf—showing that children are, in fact, competent to participate.

“We have to ask the child to know the full impact or burden of what we’re asking the child to do,” she says. “I want us to know everything about the child’s experience to help them and their family make the best decision.”

Hinds also conducted a series of studies involving the question of how parents define “being a good parent to my seriously ill child” and how clinicians can help parents achieve their definition of being a good parent. By documenting the major reasons that parents make end-of-life decisions and comparing them to the child’s reasons, Hinds created guidelines to help parents and children “make these difficult decisions together.”

Hinds’s career has been one of balancing working in the field with her research. She spent ten years on staff at a community health center while attending the University of Arizona and later accepted a teaching position at University of Nevada-Reno and worked at a small community hospital.  “I didn’t want to lose my nursing language and experience,” says Hinds. “I needed grounding and to understand what I was learning and going back to work really helped me with that.”

In her current position, Hinds re-started a nursing research program that was discontinued in the 1980s and has taken it in new directions. “We’ve done well, but still have many things to do, which the new chair will help us accomplish,” says Hinds, who co-leads one of five centers across the hospital for nurses at the Center for Translational Research.

Hinds credits the encouragement she received from her professors at UVM to pursue a graduate degree with laying the foundation for her career.

“My time at UVM was grand, absolutely the best,” she says. “I felt very well prepared at my first job as a nurse in my hometown of Bellows Falls, Vermont. I have to credit the UVM nursing faculty with having vision about my future that I certainly did not at the time when I was focused on being a nurse. I’ve had a great life and I really, really mean that. I couldn’t be more fortunate. It has been amazing. I hope my research has helped people along the way.”

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