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Rising Star: Nurse Dr. Deedra Harrington

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Most people are content to pursue one career. Dr. Deedra Harrington has found success pursuing many.

“As an advanced practice acute care nurse practitioner, Dr. Harrington brings a wealth of clinical knowledge and expertise to the roles of academic educator and researcher,” said Dr. Melinda Oberleitner, interim dean for the College of Nursing and Allied Health.

Harrington worked nine years at Lafayette General Medical Center as a staff nurse and eventually as a manager for the cardio pulmonary telemetry unit. The 1996 University of Louisiana at Lafayette graduate said she only intended to receive her bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“I was recognized as an outstanding graduate in my class,” recalled Harrington. “That’s when I received a phone call from Dr. Gail Poirrier to continue pursuing a master’s in nursing education.”

She received her master’s in 2005 and eventually went on to receive her doctorate, which focused on nursing practice and quality improvement.

Although she claimed writing didn’t come easily to her, Harrington, who now works as the bachelor of science in nursing coordinator, used her interest in cardiac and practice to drive her research.

“If someone would’ve told me 15 years ago that I’d have my doctorate, I would’ve said they’re crazy,” the assistant professor imagined. “But if you apply yourself, anything is obtainable.”

One of Harrington’s first research successes occurred in 2013 during a collaboration with Apex Innovation, an online education company based in Lafayette. Harrington experimented with Quantum, a tool made by Objectivity Plus that validates students’ performances and issues a scoring system that has inter-rater reliability, by using undergraduate students in a simulation lab.

Eventually in 2016, Harrington was recognized as the top nurse by the International Nurses Association. It was her contribution to the national study of the scope and standard practices, a procedural guide for all nurses, that won her the title.

Off-campus, the nursing professor is currently working with LGMC on a pilot study that’s focusing on the changing of indwelling foley catheters in intensive care unit patients with the intention of reducing catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

“We help them look for statistical information that has made a significant impact and changes on this disease,” Harrington said.

In addition to her research, Harrington has brought the same approach she uses in her work into her classroom. Teaching, she said, allows her to watch students grow into peers — something not necessarily seen in other fields.

In 2015, Harrington received a $2,000 grant for an undergraduate research study from the UL Lafayette Undergraduate Research Committee.

She and her colleague, Dr. Christy Lenahan, an assistant professor in nursing, used the grant to help then-graduating senior Alexis Taquino conduct a campus-wide survey on college students’ perceptions and attitudes on organ donations.

With that survey’s findings now in its final revisions, Harrington said she hopes the article will be published this spring in an international journal.

“Nursing is a highly respectable field,” she said. “Being in a field that is so highlighted within the Lafayette community is simply gratifying.”

(Photo credit: Scotty Rachaphoumy)