Doctoral candidate and alumna win perinatal and women’s health research awards

Graduate student Elizabeth Keys and alumna Deborah Wasylenko (BN’15) awarded for their poster presentations at the annual Canadian Association of Perinatal and Women’s Health Nurses (CAPWHN) Conference
From left, Rita Assabgui, executive director of CAPWHN, Deborah Wasylenko, Muhammad Kashif Mughal, Elizabeth Keys and Merilee Brockway at the CAPWHN conference.

From left, Rita Assabgui, Deborah Wasylenko, Muhammad Mughal, Elizabeth Keys, and Merilee Brockway.

A doctoral candidate and an alumnae from the Faculty of Nursing were awarded first and third place respectively for their poster presentations at the annual Canadian Association of Perinatal and Women’s Health Nurses (CAPWHN) Conference in Quebec in November.

The three-day national conference provides an information-sharing and networking opportunity for nurses working in women’s and newborns’ health. Graduate student Elizabeth Keys received first prize for her poster presentation “Play2Sleep: A Mixed Methods Study Protocol of Using Play to Improve Infant Sleep.”

“Play2Sleep is an intervention that uses individualized video-feedback of parent-infant play sessions to coach moms and dads in picking up their baby’s more subtle sleep-related and social cues,” explains Keys, who holds a clinician fellowship from Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions and the Canadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Program, with matched funding from the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

While video is used in many ways to promote parent-child interaction, Keys says to target sleep is novel. Play2Sleep builds on Faculty of Nursing professor Karen Benzies’ work with fathers and their interactions with their babies.

“I have extended the use of video-feedback because it is important to look at infant sleep from the family perspective, using play to highlight how babies communicate their needs to parents,” she adds. Individualized feedback can be provided immediately.

“It is designed to build on parents’ existing strengths when they connect with their baby.” Deborah Wasylenko (BN’15) focused on the Welcome to Parenthood kit, designed and distributed through Benzies’ research program.

“I am evaluating whether providing the kit improves parental awareness and use of community resources,” says Wasylenko, a Covenant Health Faculty of Nursing award recipient for Outstanding Undergraduate Student (2015). She is currently a RN at Foothills Medical Centre, working in postpartum, and has begun training for another position at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in pediatric oncology. Her plan is to pursue a graduate nursing degree and also obtain her IBCLC (Lactation Consultant).

Benzies’ Welcome to Parenthood project was also the subject of another poster presentation at the conference. Master’s student and nursing instructor Merilee Brockway’s poster explores the concept of a baby kit as an enhancement to existing parenting support programs for families experiencing periods of vulnerability.

“Two national awards to our undergraduate and graduate students provide evidence of the high quality research training provided in the Faculty of Nursing,” Benzies says.