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College celebrates 2019 research and practice award winners

Carol Estwing Ferrrans and Susan Y. Swart

Positive changes in healthcare occur because of the efforts of many people, not just one.

That was a theme shared by the 2019 UIC College of Nursing Distinguished Research Award honoree, Carol Estwing Ferrans, PhD, ’85, MS ’82, RN, FAAN, and the Judith Lloyd Storfjell Distinguished Award for Scholarly Practice honoree, Susan Y. Swart, EdD, MS ’05, RN, CAE, during a presentation of the awards on Oct. 29 on the Chicago campus. The awards are two of the college’s top honors and are given annually to alumni or faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to their field.

“No one accomplishes anything of importance alone,” Ferrans said during her talk, called “Hearing the Patient’s Voice.” “It is the power of the many and the power of talented people working together.”

‘Something was wrong in Chicago’ Heading link

Carol Estwing Ferrrans

Ferrans, who is the Harriet H. Werley Endowed Chair in Nursing Research, conducted her master’s and PhD work at UIC Nursing under the mentorship of Dr. Marjorie Powers. Together, they developed a first-of-its kind instrument to measure a patient’s life satisfaction. The Ferrans and Powers Quality of Life Index has since been used in more than 400 published research studies and has been translated into 21 languages for use all over the world.

Importantly, Ferrans says, the baseline scores are predictive of survival in many kinds of cancer.

“It really matters what a person thinks about her own quality of life,” Ferrans said. “I’m a firm believer: No one has a right to judge a person’s quality of life besides that person.”

Her work on the index led her to the next major chapter in her career: Tackling the disparity in breast cancer deaths between white and African-American women in Chicago. At its peak, two black women were dying of breast cancer for each white woman in Chicago.

“Something was wrong in Chicago, very wrong in Chicago,” Ferrans said.

Following community outreach efforts (Ferrans and her team reached more than 8,500 African-American women with an educational video) and advocacy (Ferrans was on a taskforce that led to the 2009 Illinois Reducing Breast Cancer Disparities Act), the breast cancer mortality rates for black women in Chicago dropped by nearly 14%.

Ferrans credits a team of people for her career accomplishments, calling it “baloney” when only the primary investigator (P.I.) gets accolades.

“It takes an enormous army of people to do all this work,” she says.

‘Much bigger than just one person’ Heading link

As executive director of American Nurses Association-Illinois, Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing and the Illinois Nurses Foundation, Susan Swart represents the voices of 197,000 registered nurses in the state of Illinois.

“You’re awarding me for something that I did not do alone,” Swart said during her presentation, “Advancing Practice Through Advocacy.” “Nobody listens to just Susan Swart, but people do listen to 197,000 registered nurses. This is so much bigger than just one person.”

Swart, who has been a nurse for 21 years and also has her own consulting firm, played an influential role in the Illinois Nurse Practice Acts of 2007 and 2017.

Her advocacy helped lead to full practice authority for nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and certified nurse midwives in the most recent Nurse Practice Act. This means that qualified nurse practitioners can practice independently in Illinois without a written collaborative agreement with a physician.

Swart says she spends an “enormous” amount of time talking to nurses, trying to get them to be more involved in advancing the profession.

“We are the No. 1 trusted profession, 17 years running,” she said. “We are seen as honest and ethical by everyone around us. It is through nurse empowerment that we can climb any mountain.”