Nurse practitioner Beth Phelps, DNP, has two reasons August is an exciting month: Not only is she getting a brand new flat-coated retriever puppy destined for showing at national competitions, she has presented research at the National Doctors of Nursing Practice Conference in Washington, D.C.
Beth, who works in Springfield Clinic’s Urgent Care Department, attended the very first National DNP Conference. This was when the DNP degree was in its infancy and the subject of the conference was how the role of a DNP was going to advance research and policy and make an impact in the clinical setting. But, she had yet to return before this year. Now in its 12th year, the conference hopes to educate attendees—who range from clinicians to educators to administrators—on developing and implementing policy and helping prepare nursing professionals to collaborate and influence change. Beth is a part of that education by presenting her study on using self-determination theory to influence smoking cessation.
Beth conducted this study while finishing her DNP with Xinyan Huang, MD, PhD, and Sarah Fowler, MD, in Springfield Clinic’s Otolaryngology (ENT) department, where she worked for seven years before joining the Urgent Care team. She asked patients who smoked to participate; they did not have to commit to quitting smoking or to making additional appointments with her. All she asked was that they fill out questionnaires before and after the study and discuss their habits with her during their regularly scheduled appointments.
Using the framework of self-determination theory, which can be used to help motivate people to a variety of different tasks or goals, Beth’s conversations with her 17 participants were meant to help them think more broadly about their smoking. “It helps you build a partnership with the patient to move toward a goal maybe they had never thought of,” Beth says. Within the three months of her study, three patients quit smoking and almost half decreased the number of cigarettes they smoked each day. Beth was thrilled with the results, because half of her patients reducing their smoking habit in such a short period of time was a significant change.
“It’s smoking cessation, so it’s still relevant,” Beth says, which is why she submitted her abstract to the DNP conference now. “I had good outcomes from my study, so I wanted to put it out there in the world to see if anyone was interested.”
Beth has always known she wanted to be a nurse, but her interest in smoking cessation came from one of her first jobs at the SIU lung cancer program after finishing her graduate degree at University of Illinois at Chicago. She thought a lot about smoking cessation because of how much she worked with lung cancer patients. When she started with the ENT team at Springfield Clinic, smoking cessation was a natural research topic when it came time to do her DNP dissertation.
Beth’s DNP was important to her because she knew her passion for nursing extended to teaching future nurses as well. So in addition to nursing and dog training, Beth spends part of her time teaching at the University of Illinois Chicago College of Nursing. “Teaching keeps you sharp,” Beth says, “because students are always asking you questions. You don’t just get to rest on your laurels and do things the way you’ve always done. They push you a bit. And teaching keeps you current because you’re always reading, you’re always working on some project, you’re always digging a little deeper into things.”
Beth’s drive to excel is apparent in all aspects of her life—including her dog training, as one of her dogs was the number two flat-coated retriever in the country for the United Kennel Club before he passed away. Plus, in addition to the conference, she also has recently had an article about diagnosing the painful ear accepted for publication in the Journal of Urgent Care Medicine. It’s clear her desire to constantly learn has as much of an impact on her patient care as it does on her students. The way Beth sees it, part of her success is due to the solid foundation and support of her Springfield Clinic teams in the Otolaryngology and Urgent Care Departments. “This is home,” she says about Urgent Care. “We have an excellent group of providers, nursing staff and housekeeping staff. Excellent patient care is a team effort, and everyone really works well together. We’re like a family.”