NIH Funds Study of UAMS Nurses’ Influence on Heart Failure Patient Outcomes

By David Robinson

About 6.2 million people in the United States have heart failure. The two-year, $406,897 R21 grant from the NIH National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) will focus on African American heart failure patients, whose hospitalization rates are nearly 2.5 times that of white heart failure patients nationally.

The collaboration with UAMS nurses and nursing leadership will enable Williams to document how nurses use individualized patient risk factors (risk stratification) and will include 200 nurse surveys and 20 interviews.

His team is bringing a biomedical informatics approach that could potentially help nurses and other care team members fine tune risk stratification to improve personalized care for higher risk patients and better predict what types of care they need.

“It’s this intersection of human-computer interaction, how they’re working with these computational tools within the electronic health record to improve patient outcomes,” said Williams, an assistant professor in the College of Medicine Department of Biomedical Informatics.

Williams’ prior research found that patient care teams with registered nurses saw reduced hospitalizations and readmissions for all congestive heart failure patients. The study was published in the journal PLOS One, and it is the foundation for his NIH/NINR-funded study.

The PLOS One paper reported that registered nurses were the only members of patients’ care teams consistently associated with a 30% decreased risk of hospitalization and a 31% decreased risk of readmissions for heart failure patients. The findings were based on analyses of 80,921 heart failure patient care encounters at UAMS from 2014 to 2021.

“This project is literally about the nurses and the hard work that they do to demonstrate that UAMS is a leader in both nursing and nursing science,” Williams said. “We know nurses are doing something right. Now they will help us generate evidence about what’s working at the bedside and help us create tools and interventions to optimize care here at UAMS and nationally.”

Williams’ co-investigators on the grant are:

  • Kevin Sexton, M.D., associate professor, College of Medicine Department of Surgery; president, BioVentures LLC at UAMS; co-director, TRI Health Science Innovation and Entrepreneurship program.
  • Taren Swindle, Ph.D., associate professor, College of Medicine Department of Family and Preventive Medicine
  • Pearman Parker, Ph.D., RN, assistant professor, College of Nursing

Williams’ work has been supported by the UAMS Translational Research Institute (TRI) through its KL2 Mentored Research Career Development Scholar Award program. He graduated from the program in 2023 after receiving two years of research funding and translational research training.

TRI is supported by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, Clinical and Translational Science Award number TR003107.