Nursing research

The department of Nursing Research at Children's Wisconsin promotes and sustains the development of innovative programs of pediatric nursing research.

The vision for the Department of Nursing Research is to build and sustain the research capacity for the discipline of nursing at Children’s and contribute to interdisciplinary research. Our vision includes developing our doctorally prepared nurses while also engaging our advanced practice nurses and clinical nurses in the process of research.

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Several programs of research are currently under development within the department of Nursing Research. These programs address unique clinical issues confronting children and their families, including:

  • skin integrity in critically ill children
  • family readiness and preparation for discharge
  • nursing care interventions to improve hospital outcomes
  • pain relief and sedation
  • patient and family self-management
  • interventions to prevent and better manage obesity in children
  • quality of life for children and families at the end of life
  • child and family coping skills
  • interventions for premature infants that improve growth and development
  • infant feeding
  • developmental and psychosocial implications of chronic illness for children and families

The Department of Nursing Research supports the Evidenced-Based Practice and Nursing Research Council to facilitate the use of evidence and the discovery of new knowledge for practice. Department-supported initiatives include: 

  • the visiting scholars program
  • mentorship for proposal development or dissemination
  • the EBP education series
  • the EBP fellowship program
  • research fellowships
  • coordination of nursing research processes

Contact the department of Nursing Research:

Nursing Research Department administration (alphabetical order)

  • Michele Polfuss, PhD, RN, CPNP-AC/PC
    Joint Research Chair in the Nursing of Children
    (414) 955-3187 |

Nurse scientists (alphabetical order)

  • Michelle Czarnecki, MSN, RN, APN,MSN, CPNP-BC
    Nurse Practitioner, Jane B. Pettit Pain and Palliative Care Center
    (414) 266-3589 |

    Area of expertise:
    Pediatric pain management, specifically: Safety and efficacy of Parent/Nurse Controlled Analgesia in various populations (neonates, infants, toddlers and school age children with developmental delay) and barriers to pediatric pain management perceived by nurses.
  • Karen Kavanaugh, PhD, RN, FAAN
    Senior Nurse Scientist
    Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics 
    Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
    (414) 337-0263 |

Area of expertise: Palliative and end-of-life care for newborns and their families; decision making by families of extremely premature infants; pathways leading to preterm birth in African American women; qualitative research methods.

  • Stacee Lerret, PhD, RN, CPNP-AC/PC
    Nurse Practitioner, Solid Organ Transplant
    Assistant Professor, Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition 
    Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI 
    (414) 266-3944 |

Areas of expertise: Discharge transition for children with chronic illness, transition from pediatric to adult care, pediatric solid organ transplant. 

  • Michele Polfuss, PhD, MSN, CPNP-AC/PC
    Joint Research Chair in the Nursing of Children
    (414) 955-3187 |

    Areas of expertise: Obesity, weight management, children, adolescents, and young adults with special needs and physical handicaps.
  • Kathleen J. Sawin, PhD, CPNP, FAAN
    Nurse Scientist 
    (414) 337-0263|

    Area of expertise:
    Adolescent protective factors (attitude, hope, communication efficacy), adolescents, cancer, child and family adaptation to chronic illnesses, diabetes, epilepsy, family functioning, functional status, instrument development, mixed method designs (quantitative/qualitative), neuropsychology functioning, non-categorical approach to issues for child/family dealing with chronic conditions, quality of life, self-management, spina bifida, spinal cord injury.
  • Christine Schindler, PhD, RN, CPNP-AC/PC
    Nurse Practitioner, Critical Care
    (414) 266-2016 |

    Area of expertise:
    Harm prevention in the pediatric intensive care unit, pressure ulcer prevention, and wound care.
  • Rosemary White-Traut, PhD, RN, FAAN
    Director, Nursing Research and Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics, Medical College of Wisconsin
    (414) 955-3613 |

    Area of expertise: feeding of at risk infants, maternal and infant health outcomes after developmental intervention for at risk infants; pathways leading to preterm birth in African American women, neurohormonal and inflammatory biomarkers in mothers and infants following developmental intervention.

Affiliated clinical researchers (alphabetical order)

  • Norah L. Johnson, PhD, RN
    Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, Marquette University

    Area of expertise:
    education of clinicians who work with children with developmental disabilities for example, autism spectrum disorders, empowering families to negotiate health care experiences with health care providers, and testing interventions to reduce distress of the child and family during health care encounters.
  • Karen Pridham, PhD, RN, FAAN
    Helen Denne Schulte Professor Emerita, University of Wisconsin Madison School of Nursing and Department of Family Medicine

    Areas of expertise:
    Child feeding skills and respiration during feeding, mother/infant interaction, biochemical markers of dietary adequacy and health. Research design: Qualitative and quantitative.
  • Rachel Schiffman, PhD, RN, FAAN
    Associate dean for research, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing; Director, Self-Management Science Center; and Co-Principal Investigator, Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) of Southeast Wisconsin

    Areas of expertise:
    Prenatal care, early childhood intervention programs (Early Head Start) and family health.
  • Julie Snethen, PhD, RN
    Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing

    Areas of expertise:
    Chronic illness in children, obesity in children and adolescents, maternal-child health, pediatrics, Q-methodology.
  • Marianne Weiss, DNS(c), RN
    Associate professor, Marquette University College of Nursing

    Areas of expertise:
    Discharge transition and continuum of care for mothers and their newborns, readiness for discharge.
Contact us

Human Research Protection Program

(414) 337-7133