Health Briefs

Health Briefs

Physical Therapy Effective for Four-Legged Athletes, Too

How do you get a 1,200-pound horse to tell you about the range of motion in his neck? Give him a carrot, of course.

Kirk Peck, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy, along with fellow physical therapist Sharon Classen, saw several dozen hoofed patients at The International Omaha horse jumping and dressage competition in May.

Classen and Peck, who make up Serenity Physical Therapy, based out of Classen’s farm near Bennington, Neb., are spreading the word about the benefits of physical therapy for athletes — both the four-legged and two-legged varieties.

Peck, who already holds certification for practicing physical therapy on dogs, and is the state’s leading advocate for animal physical therapists, is in the final stages of completing his equine certification.

When available, Peck will join Classen as she travels the horse show-jumping circuit, providing fresh insights on enhancing performance, helping horses and riders recover faster, preventing injuries and conducting groundbreaking research.

Study to Examine Factors Leading to Lower Back Pain in Pregnant Women

Jennifer Bagwell, Ph.D., assistant professor of physical therapy, earned a new investigator grant from the American Physical Therapy Association Orthopaedic Section to look at joint and muscle function in pregnant and postpartum women.

Bagwell will spend two years looking at the gait of 25 pregnant and postpartum women and the gait of 25 women who have never been pregnant. The goal is to look at the factors contributing to lower back and lower extremity pain during and after pregnancy, with the ultimate goal of finding techniques and interventions to lessen or eliminate the pain.

Bagwell said about half of pregnant women report lower back or lower extremity pain, a pain that often doesn’t go away following delivery.

New College of Nursing Programs Announced

The College of Nursing recently announced a new RN-to-BSN program and a new Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner specialty track for students seeking a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

The RN-to-BSN program, which is entirely online, provides registered nurses with a pathway to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. The program aims to prepare nurses in the areas of outcomes management, care coordination and transition, cost-quality initiatives, and population health management. It also encourages registered nurses, who may already have been practicing for several years, to think about the leadership roles they could assume to best serve their populations. Work experience will be considered in determining the breadth and depth of required coursework toward the degree.

The Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner specialty track is designed to prepare nurse practitioners to meet the mental health needs of individuals, families and communities or groups, with a population focus on children, adolescents, adults and older adults. Implementing faculty from both the College of Nursing and the School of Medicine, program content includes psychiatric-mental health models of care, therapeutic modalities, pharmacotherapeutics and neuroscience.

Breaking Bad News to Parents Focus of Medical Simulation

About 20 fourth-year School of Medicine pediatrics students took part in a simulation this spring on breaking bad news to the parents of children who have experienced severe trauma or a difficult diagnosis. While simulated, the exercise was far from fake. The standardized patients — specially trained by simulation lab staff — provided visceral reactions to the worst news a parent can get.

Under the mentorship of Terence Zach, BA’79, M.D., neonatologist and professor of pediatrics, medical students took part in the simulation to work on their technique.

“As a neonatologist, by definition, I do this just about daily,” Zach said. “Some news is worse than other news — sometimes it’s just that the baby has to stay in the NICU for a few days, in other cases, the baby died — but on a fairly regular basis, this is something we do. We want students to be able to have the experience before it really happens. It’s the old saying: ‘Tell me, I forget; show me, I may remember; involve me and I understand.’”

Students in the simulation learned to have a communications plan before breaking the news, learned how much words matter, how much body language matters, how even a brief mental rehearsal can help.

Typically, Zach said, not many medical schools offer a simulation like this one. But Creighton’s emphasis on treating the whole person, combined with educating the whole person, makes this one of the most poignant lessons many of the students will take away from their time in medical school.

Vitamin D Could Lower Cancer Risk, Researchers Find

A higher level of vitamin D could lead to a lower risk of cancer, a Creighton professor found in his latest study published online in the April 6 issue of PLOS ONE. Drawing on results from one of Creighton’s past studies, Robert Heaney, BS’47, MD’51, and researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and GrassrootsHealth, looked at vitamin D levels in 2,304 women.

A global expert on vitamin D studies, Heaney looked at women who used a supplemental amount of vitamin D over a four-year period. He found that if a woman’s blood level for vitamin D is above 40 nanograms per milliliter, her risk for cancer is reduced.

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine recommended a vitamin D dosage of 600 international units per day. That’s not enough, says Heaney. But what is enough? For Heaney, he believes people should first discover how much vitamin D is in their blood levels, as the GrassrootsHealth participants discovered through a blood test.