FYI: The Morning News: Our Town : Nursing Student Receives National Recognition For Clinical Study

Emily Coombs, a master's student in the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing at the University of Arkansas, recently won a $500 scholarship at the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists in St. Louis.

Coombs, a staff nurse at Mercy Medical Center in Rogers, won the award for her poster presented at the association's annual meeting in March about a study of universal screening for the methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Coombs created a poster for her independent study project based on her work with Mercy Medical Center's Intensive Care Unit and infection preventionist.

Nationwide, hospitals are looking for strategies to reduce the spread of the organism, which has become resistant to many antibiotics, Coombs explained of the team effort.

"One recommended way to do this is universal screening of all patients followed by special precautions for those found to be infected," she said. "This is usually started in an area of the hospital where patients are more vulnerable, such as the intensive care unit."

Research studies suggest that, without universal surveillance, many infected patients could be missed, placing other medically vulnerable patients at risk for exposure to the antibiotic resistant bacteria, Coombs said. Preliminary results of the clinical improvement project at Mercy suggest the hospital has a very low prevalence of MRSA patients being admitted to the Mercy Medical Center Intensive Care Unit. The hospital is committed to working toward the goal of identifying and controlling the spread of MRSA, she said.

"Knowledge of MRSA prevalence was used to guide decision-making on further control and prevention efforts," Coombs said.

Coombs earned her bachelor's degree in nursing from the university and decided to pursue the master's degree so that she could expand her ability to influence health care. The UA master's degree program prepares graduates to serve as clinical nurse specialists for adults with medical/surgical health problems. Clinical nurse specialists affect patient care on a broader scale than registered nurses through leadership, consultation and collaboration within health-care organizations, Coombs explained.