Monday, February 19, 2018

Doing research to lend a hand

Erica Villamar, psychology major and pre-occupational therapy student and Verrazano Honors' Class of 2018, investigates muscular contracture.

Ranges of hand movements
As a prospective occupational therapy student, the Verrazano capstone project was an opportunity to learn more about the field’s potential. Prior to the research, I had a pretty good understanding of occupational therapists’ contributions in restoring individuals to optimal levels of function and independence. Due to occupational therapy’s interdisciplinary and symbiotic practice, it consists of an extensive range of knowledge. To learn more, I volunteered in a nursing home, which is where I encountered my first contracture – the thickening and shortening of the muscle, tendons, or ligaments. The contractures of the hands, feet, and limbs appeared debilitating, stiff and painful; many patients helplessly whimpered and had limited mobility. To prevent and minimize the adverse effects of contractures, the therapists promoted range of motion (ROM) exercises and the use of splints. At times, it seemed impossible for the therapists to pry open and release the fingers into extension. I was flooded with questions. How much pressure is required to extend the residents’ fingers without injuring them? What sensations are felt when you can’t move your body in ways you normally would? How do you relieve the painful symptoms to return to normal activities of daily living (ADLs)?
Erica and her advisor, Dr. Peter Costa
My intention of the capstone was to better understand the causes and treatments of contractures, and more importantly to spread awareness of them. Contractures are much easier to prevent than to treat, so knowledge and early initiatives may resolve their prevalence. During my time in the nursing home, I witnessed and learned of techniques to counteract contractures. While development of contractures may be predisposed from diseases, the use of effective multimodal preventative treatments may minimize their complications. After reviewing the literature, I now understand movement’s role in the human body and in the prevention of contractures. Movement may take many forms, such as walking, running, dancing, stretching, or sports playing. Adding movement into daily routines will promote both an active body and mind. I often took health and all its benefits for granted, but from this capstone I hope to inspire myself and others to move and learn more about the wonders of the human body.

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Little Anxiety Can Go a Long Way

Katilin Russo, a psychology major and pre-physical therapy student in the Verrazano Honors class of 2018, finds that a little stress can be a good thing!

Kaitlin at work

My name is Kaitlin Russo and I am a Psychology major, pre-physical therapy student. This past semester, I conducted research with guidance from my mentor, Florette Cohen. Since I was able to choose a topic of my interest, I researched anxiety and its effects on athletic performance. In the beginning I was convinced this project would be extremely difficult and long, but I was able to relate to this topic well and it became fun. Being a soccer player, I have felt the effects of anxiety on my performance, which is the main reason I wanted to learn more about it. From personal experience, I believe that anxiety negatively impacts the way an athlete performs. It is extremely frustrating when anxiety puts worried thoughts in your head and messes with your game. Learning about various ways to ease anxiety is helpful because I can share these tips with my teammates, and hopefully help them control their pre-competitive anxiety as well.

Kaitlin at play
I hypothesized that anxiety would have a negative effect on performance, and most of the research I found supported this conclusion. Surprisingly, a certain level of anxiety actually helps athletes perform better, but any levels too low or too high disrupt performance. One technique I learned to help reduce anxiety is to create pre-competition routines. These routines help ease the effects of anxiety and distraction when extreme pressure is placed on the player.
One of the studies I researched focused on the effects of negative words on anxiety. It explained how negative sports words distract players, make them doubt themselves, and brings down their performance level. This study suggested for players to focus on positive words, and to have coaches try to speak in positive sports words rather than negative. This made me realize that over the years I have responded to negative and positive words in just the same way this study explained, so it must have some truth behind it. Being able to relate to the studies I researched only made the topic more personal and more important to me that I will have to share it with other athletes.

I hope to teach athletes more about anxiety and the effective ways to keep restraint over it. I feel this topic is pivotal for athletes and coaches to understand, and even become more educated about, because it would provide athletes with the means to perform at top levels mentally as well as physically. I felt accomplished after completing this project because it was a lengthy process, but I successfully made it through and ended up enjoying every bit of it. I was beyond excited to share my newfound knowledge with my friends, and even considered setting up future interviews and surveys to conduct my own experiment. Further research could be done on different team sports, as well as on individual sports to see if anxiety has the same effect.
CSI Dolphins Soccer Team

Monday, January 29, 2018

An Ounce of Prevention

Crystina Baetz (RN), a Nursing major in Verrazano Honors' Class of 2018, Helps Train Nursing Students on Cervical Cancer Prevention

As a Verrazano student at the College of Staten Island, and in order to graduate with Verrazano Honors, I was required to complete a Capstone Project that would build my knowledge and interest in my field. I am a nurse and nursing student, so I chose to complete a project in this field. By working closely with my mentor, Dr. Arlene Farren, Chair of the Nursing Department at the College of Staten Island, I identified a prevalent issue in current healthcare. With Dr. Farren’s guidance, I developed an educational program titled, “Preparing Nursing Students to Contribute to Cervical Cancer Prevention: An Educational Program,” and used the feedback from this program to complete the report, Preparing Nursing Students to Contribute to Cervical Cancer Prevention: An Educational Program Review.
            I had never had a passion for cervical cancer prevention, and I have never known anyone who had it. I began thinking about the issue of cancer prevention in the spring of 2017, when working with Dr. Farren on the Staten Island Performing Provider System’s (PPS) Cancer Prevention in Communities Initiative. On this project, we researched things such as cancer prevention measures and the availability of health services in the 10305 and 10306 zip codes in Staten Island. When reviewing the literature for this project, I found cervical cancer and human papillomavirus (HPV) prevention to be a major current topic that was left out of PPS’s project. I saw this as an opportunity to shine a light on this relatively unknown disease, and to contribute what I could to its prevention.
            Although I had written literature reviews and other long, scholarly papers before, this project was very unique to me. I spent several weeks with Dr. Farren reviewing and critiquing the PowerPoint for the educational program. I would have never guessed the amount of work that went into a 30-slide presentation! I also was glad to have Dr. Farren’s guidance in setting up my presentation’s date, time, and how to advertise.  I found it interesting to then write my Capstone Project paper and include the results from my own work! I must admit that I greatly enjoyed grading the pre and post information surveys, and creating tables from this information.
Crystina presents at the Undergraduate Research Conference
            I do not plan on stopping my work on cervical cancer prevention once I turn in my Capstone Project. I presented my program again in early December to a medical/surgical nursing class at the College of Staten Island. I hope to use the results of this presentation and others in the future to continue developing my program review paper. Dr. Farren and I plan to present our results on a board at the College of Staten Island’s Undergraduate Research Conference in the spring of 2018. It is also our hope, after continuing our efforts on the paper, to submit it for publishing. Long term, I would like to continue developing and giving this presentation to nursing students at the College of Staten Island and elsewhere.
            Overall, I believe it was beneficial for me to complete this Capstone Project. I not only will graduate Verrazano Honors and departmental honors, but have also fostered a personal relationship with an academic mentor. Most importantly, I was able to increase my knowledge of an important issue in healthcare, and use the skills I’ve gained throughout my college career to formulate a contribution to this issue. Completing this Capstone Project made me proud to be a Verrazano and nursing student, and excited for what is to come!