Nursing faculty member receives funding for heart failure study

By Beverly Molnar
January 22, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Lisa Kitko, assistant professor of nursing at Penn State, has received a Beginning Grant-in-Aid from the American Heart Association Great Rivers Affiliate for her research on “Transitioning to the Terminal Phase of Heart Failure with an LVAD-DT in Place.”

The $120,000 grant will fund Kitko’s research during 2014 and 2015. The purpose of the project is to identify the needs of patients with left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) at end of life and their family caregivers.

“An LVAD has been shown to improve survival for those patients with stage D heart failure and is now permanently implanted as a life-prolonging end-of-life treatment or destination therapy (DT),” Kitko said. “There is a growing body of evidence that these patients have improved length and quality of life. However, since this is an end-of-life treatment, the patient will die with the device in place. There is a shortage of research on the end-of-life experiences and needs of these patients and their caregivers, such as whether they would be amenable to palliative care services or the experience of actively dying with an LVAD in place.”

Kitko’s aims are to describe the experiences of these patient–caregiver pairs as they transition to the terminal phase of heart failure, identify their palliative care needs and identify specific events or needs that would trigger a palliative care referral or intervention.

“This project has a high potential to make a significant impact on practice by providing a better understanding of these experiences and needs,” Kitko said. “We will be able to identify specific time periods when end-of-life services such as palliative care should be offered to best meet the needs of these patient-caregiver pairs. This new knowledge will guide palliative care interventions designed to improve not only the life experience but the death experience as well.”

Judith Hupcey, associate dean for graduate education and professor of nursing at Penn State, will serve as co-investigator. John Boehmer, assistant professor of medicine and surgery in the College of Medicine and director of heart failure services at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s Heart and Vascular Institute, will serve as a consultant.

The objective of the American Heart Association’s Beginning Grant-in-Aid program is to promote the independent status of promising beginning scientists with a focus on research related to cardiovascular function and disease, stroke or related problems.

  • Lisa Kitko, assistant professor of nursing

    Lisa Kitko is an assistant professor of nursing at Penn State.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated January 09, 2015