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Nurse receives grant to study patients postoverative care

August 16, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - After more than 30 years in nursing at Washington County Hospital, Julianne Harp was sick and tired of seeing patients getting sick after surgery and sometimes having to be hospitalized longer than expected.

So when Harp chose a research project for her bachelor's degree program in nursing, she had no trouble zeroing in on the nausea and vomiting many postoperative patients endure.

Harp has received a grant from the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses to complete her study, one of only two grants awarded nationwide and the first ever to a nurse at Washington County Hospital.

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Though the grant was small, just $800, Harp said the recognition and support for her research has been encouraging. Seeing a decline in nausea and vomiting is the result she really wants.

"During my research of this problem, I found statistics and an article on Sea Bands," Harp said. A familiar product to people with travel or motion sickness, Sea Bands are inexpensive holistic wristbands sold over the counter in drugstores.

Based on the principles of acupuncture and acupressure, the two stretchy bands are worn on the wrists of both hands.

A round, white button sewn inside the bands presses on an area three fingers above the wrist where two central tendons are located. Practitioners of acupressure say that's where the center for controlling nausea is on the body, Harp said.

Harp's proposal was approved by the internal review board at the hospital. The program, which is noninvasive and carries no risk of infection, was begun last February.

So far, about 130 people have participated in the study, half getting Sea Bands and the other half a placebo wristband with no button inside.

"Initial feedback is encouraging, but we don't have all the results yet," she said.

"This is a big problem for women," Harp said. Postoperative nausea and vomiting often are triggered by a woman's menstrual cycle, as well as by stress levels, which tend to be higher in women.

Harp said she has been supported all along by Penny Hill, director of the post-anesthesia care unit and outpatient services at Washington County Hospital; Dr. Sandra Cifor, chief of anesthesiology at the hospital; and Myra Binau, a librarian who helped with her research.

All this has been quite a ride for the 57-year-old Washington County native, who has called Smithsburg her home for many years. Harp is married, has two children and one grandchild.

Originally trained at Washington County Hospital's school of nursing, Harp took courses at Hagerstown Community College and then earned her bachelor's degree from Penn State Mont Alto a year ago.

"When I'm at the hospital, I hear 'how's the research going?' a lot," Harp said.

That alone tells her just how strongly her colleagues feel about the goal of lowering the incidence of nausea and vomiting for post-surgical patients.

Next year, Harp will present her findings at the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses' annual conference in Chicago. Her study will be published in a future issue of The Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing.

"The wristbands are an adjunct to the anti-nausea medications we still give patients," Harp said. "They don't take the place of, but they add to them."

The future of the project still is unknown, Harp said. The Food and Drug Administration approved Sea Bands for postoperative nausea last year.

"The whole nursing department at Washington County Hospital is behind us now," Harp said.

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