Alumni

Desire to help anxious children drives Brandman nursing school grad

February 11, 2016 by Cindy O'Dell
Jessica Kozlowski, a 2014 graduate of the Marybelle and S. Paul Musco School of Nursing and Health Professionals, is being honored by the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

Jessica Kozlowski, a 2014 graduate of the Marybelle and S. Paul Musco School of Nursing and Health Professionals, is being honored by the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

Recent DNP graduate Jessica Kozlowski’s research project is earning her multiple awards including the Journal of Pediatric Health Care’s Ellen Rudy Clore Excellence in Scholarly Writing Award for 2015, but it’s the benefits of her project to the rural Florida community where she works that she values the most.

Kozlowski, a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) as well as a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), knew she was passionate about mental health when she started working toward her advanced degree at the Marybelle and S. Paul Musco School of Nursing in 2012.

She was particularly concerned about the difficulties faced by young patients in the federally qualified health clinic where she works. Patients and their families faced long waits, travel challenges and expenses when referred for treatment outside the clinic. Those hurdles prevented many from following up, particularly for anxiety treatment.

At Brandman, she quickly found a mentor in adjunct faculty member Dr. Pamela Lusk.

“We hit it off from the first interview,” said Kozlowski. “She (Lusk) worked at a federally qualified health clinic as a psychiatric nurse.”

Lusk introduced Kozlowski to Creating Opportunities for Personal Empowerment (COPE), a program developed by Lusk’s mentor, Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, a nationally recognized expert in child and adolescent health, evidence-based practice and intervention research. The program is used to help children and adolescents copes with depression and anxiety through education and skill building.

Because the seven-session program isn’t considered psychotherapy – although it shares many of the skill-building techniques used in traditional cognitive behavior therapy – it doesn’t have to be run by a psychiatric nurse practitioner or psychiatrist.

Through her DNP training at Brandman, Kozlowski was able to introduce COPE at her clinic and use the data gathered there and at other clinics to complete her research requirement. She screened 8- to 13-year-olds for general anxiety and then reassessed them after the COPE sessions.

“Those who completed the COPE program – all seven sessions – showed an improvement in the quality of their lives and reduced anxiety,” said Kozlowski. Parents also said they saw improvement and both parents and children said they would recommend it to others.

Being able to offer the program at her clinic also vastly increased the possibility of cooperation. Previously only 20 percent of her patients followed up on treatment when referred outside the clinic.

“It (the clinic) was in a place they they’re comfortable with. They all knew me. There was no three- to six-month wait to get in. They can walk to my clinic,” she said.

Those issues weren’t just a problem in Florida.

“The clinical problem (intervening with children’s  anxiety in pediatric practice) Jessica identified as the focus of her clinical scholarly project is a clinical issue experienced by PNP’s all over this country – so she knew if she developed  practice solutions, her findings would be welcomed by her professional colleagues,” said Lusk.

“All of these outstanding aspects of Jessica’s DNP work directly make her DNP project applicable to other PNP’s in rural areas, desiring to provide best evidence-based care and also confronting ‘real life’ barriers to care.  That is what makes her article in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care ‘excellence in scholarly writing.’ Her writing is not only well done from a scholarly writing perspective, but what she had to share, matters, it makes a difference in pediatric health care.”

Dr. Mary Mays, who was associate dean of the nursing school when Kozlowski was in the DNP program, also praised Kozlowski for a project that had a health outcome, a cost outcome and a satisfaction outcome. That’s the goal for all the students in the doctoral program.

Kozlowski’s work with COPE isn’t over. She recently received approval to train teachers to use the program in an elementary school as well as ongoing training for nurses at her clinic. She’s also a preceptor at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

“I feel really blessed and thankful for being able to teach as well as have a clinical practice. I wouldn’t have thought of that if not for the wonderful teachers and faculty around me at Brandman,” she said.

There’s another reason for her passion to help children with anxiety.

“I’ve been anxious since I was 8 years old. If this was something I could have had, it would have helped me immensely. Intervening before age 13 really cuts down on the number who take it (anxiety) into adulthood,” she said.

Kozlowski, Lusk and Melnyk will have a reunion in Atlanta next month when she accepts her writing award at the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) 2016 national conference.

She’s also delighted when she gets to see others from her DNP class at conferences.

“We were all very invested in each other’s projects. I think that made our projects so much better. You had people really caring about what you’re doing, even if their focus was gerontology or psychology and not pediatrics. That ideal (of cooperation) really helped us. We’re doing so many wonderful things all around the United States.”

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  • DNP in hand, nursing school grad continues her lifelong goal
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