Recent Dissertation Topics

More than 200 universities worldwide annually conduct the Three-Minute Thesis, empowering doctoral students to consolidate their ideas and concisely explain their research discoveries to a non-specialist audience in only 180 seconds. UMSON’s PhD students were given only three sentences.

Challenge: 3-Sentence Dissertation

UMSON graduated one of its largest PhD classes in May, after eight doctoral students successfully defended their dissertations. Little did they know there would be one final test: Modeled after the Three-Minute Thesis Challenge, an exercise developed to challenge graduate students to present their research and its relevance in a concise, understandable, engaging manner, the graduates were tasked with summing up their dissertations in just three sentences. Challenge accepted.

Rachel Breman, PhD '18, RN
Promoting Admission in Active Labor for Childbirth: Triage Dynamics and Early Labor Lounge Use
A mixed-methods approach examined the triage process when low-risk pregnant women come to a hospital with an Early Labor Lounge (rather than sending women home to labor further). Findings revealed a complex decision-making process among the provider (midwife or physician), the triage nurse, and the pregnant woman. When midwives provide prenatal care, women are more likely to have been told about the Early Labor Lounge and are more likely to use it if they are not in active labor.

Lauren Covington, PhD '18, MS '12, RN
Exploration of Toddler Sleep and Maternal Sleep/Mental Health in Low-Income Families at Risk for Sleep Disparities
Toddlers should get 11-14 hours of sleep every 24 hours and should go to bed before 9 p.m., yet there is wide variation in practice, and some families are at risk for sleep disparities. This dissertation found that mothers often overestimate toddler sleep duration and underestimate bedtimes – and that use of bedtime routines is associated with fewer nighttime awakenings and longer sleep duration. Furthermore, mothers who co-slept with toddlers got less sleep and reported increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Amy L. Daniels, PhD '18, MS '12, BSN '89, RN, CHSE
Clinical Simulation in Pre-Licensure Nursing Students: Improving Learning Outcomes in Psychologically Safe Learning Environments
Applying knowledge and practicing skills are essential components of nursing education that are commonly addressed through simulation, but expertise in designing scenarios and debriefing are essential. After studying entry-level nursing students using the same scenario but different debriefers, findings revealed that student and debriefer characteristics have little association to student reflective thinking abilities. Improved measures are needed to strengthen the evidence linking simulation to student learning.

Ana C. Duarte, PhD '18, CRNP-PMH
The Use of Text Messaging to Improve Adherence and Functioning in Psychiatric Patients
Using text messaging to help people manage their health is now commonplace, but limited evidence demonstrates how it changes
behaviors and health outcomes. Examining whether text message reminders improve appointment and medication adherence for people receiving outpatient psychiatric care, this dissertation found that patients are amenable to receiving text reminders and that there is a trend toward better medication and appointment adherence. Considering that text messaging is a ubiquitous, cost-effective, and efficient technology, larger studies across varied patient populations are needed to quantify behavior change and longer-term health outcomes.

Elizabeth Heetderks, PhD ’18, ACNP-BC
Neuroimaging in Headache Patients: The Sensitivity of CT in Missed Stroke Diagnoses
This dissertation used Maryland hospital and emergency department (ED) data to examine the care of patients complaining of a headache. While 0.5 percent were admitted within 30 days with a subsequent stroke, undergoing neuroimaging in the ED did not influence the likelihood of later stroke. Since diagnostic imaging overuse poses a threat to patients by increasing exposure to radiation, and it was not found to be diagnostic in the ED, observation stays should be considered in patients with neurological complaints with high suspicion of pathology but negative imaging.

Stacey Iobst, PhD '18, BSN '07, RN, RNC-OB, C-EFM
Factors Influencing the Use of Labor Management Interventions and Their Effect on Cesarean Birth
Managing a woman’s labor often involves many interventions (e.g., amniotomy, epidural anesthesia, and oxytocin augmentation), which can "cascade" to a cesarean birth. In studying low-risk women with spontaneous onset of labor, this dissertation showed that admission in active labor, delivery by a midwife (versus obstetrician/gynecologist), and delivery at a hospital with an as-needed obstetrician available (versus a 24/7 obstetrician) were associated with a lower likelihood of receiving interventions. Compared to receiving no interventions, use of all three interventions was associated with nearly twice the likelihood of cesarean birth.

Marik Moen, PhD '18, RN
Social Stability as a Consistent Measure of Social Context in a Low-Income Population
Scientists need an established concept to assess social determinants of health at the individual level that is not too complex nor too reduced. In examining social stability (stability in housing, residence, legal relationship, income, and employment over a defined period of time), findings revealed that it adequately captured the diversity of social contexts of a low-income population in Baltimore and predicted risk for sex, drugs, and violence exposure. Social stability should be applied in more diverse populations to support its generalizability and associations with health outcomes.

Tracy Zvenyach, PhD '18, MS '06, NP
Diet Quality Among Pregnant Women Associated with Food Supplementation from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program
Despite widespread use of the WIC food supplementation program by pregnant women, data on overall diet quality is limited. Using a FoodFotoTM smartphone app to document food intake and translate it to diet quality, this dissertation found that the overall diet quality in a sample of pregnant women was suboptimal; however, women that reported the highest utilization of the WIC food supplement scored above the national average for diet quality. Findings from this study support the value of the WIC program and will inform the current policy debate on food supplementation programs.