skip navigation nih record
Vol. LXIII, No. 19
September 16, 2011

previous story

next story

NINR, Clinical Center Hold Conference on Symptom Management

Drs. Clare Hastings (l) and Patricia Grady at the NINR-CC joint conference

Drs. Clare Hastings (l) and Patricia Grady at the NINR-CC joint conference

NINR and the Clinical Center recently cosponsored a joint conference, “Symptom Mechanisms, Measurement, and Management.” The event celebrated both NINR’s 25th anniversary and the 2011 National Nurses Week at NIH. Distinguished lecturers from across the country presented the latest research into methods to help clinicians better identify and treat common symptoms such as fatigue, pain and sleep disorders.

Dr. Clare Hastings, chief of CC Nursing and Patient Care Services, welcomed attendees with an overview of NIH’s clinical research program. “One of the philosophies of my boss, [CC director] Dr. John Gallin…is that in order to have a thriving research support process you have to have people who are engaged in clinical research.” She outlined the various roles that nurses may take within the research team, from the undergraduate nursing student first learning about research, to the credentialed research nurse assisting with clinical protocols, to the Ph.D. nurse-scientist trained to conduct independent research projects.

Dr. Pamela Mitchell
Dr. Pamela Mitchell delivers her keynote, “Promoting Nursing Symptom Management Research within the CTSA Structure”

In her keynote address, Dr. Pamela Mitchell, a nursing professor at the University of Washington School of Nursing, discussed ways in which the interdisciplinary scope of the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs) can promote nursing research. Within the CTSA consortium, which includes research institutions across the country, Mitchell and NCRR program officer Dr. Donna Jo McCarthy co-chair a nurse scientist special interest group to increase collaborative opportunities, particularly in the area of symptom management research. To put the importance of this research into perspective, Mitchell stated, “We talk about symptoms—pain and nausea and so forth—but these [studies] are really about the human experience as people are living with acute or chronic illnesses.”

Dr. Leo Saligan, deputy clinical director of NINR’s Intramural Research Program, discussed his research on the molecular genetic mechanisms of fatigue. He said his interest in the topic “stemmed from my clinical observations…I want to understand what fatigue is and how to manage it.”

Dr. Leorey Saligan

Dr. Leorey Saligan, deputy clinical director of the NINR Intramural Research Program, answers a question from the audience.

Photos: Ernie Branson

In one current project, he and his research team are comparing fatigue reports from patients undergoing treatment for prostate cancer with changes in gene regulation and expression. The goal is to identify particular genetic targets that may be useful for interventions to reduce fatigue related to disease and/or its treatments. This work could help with managing fatigue not only in cancer patients, but also in individuals with other chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia.

Other speakers during the scientific sessions gave talks on a range of topics including pain management during palliative care, daytime sleepiness and fatigue among patients with heart failure, pain and depression among individuals with sickle cell disease and use of the NIH PROMIS and Toolbox in creating standardized measures to advance clinical assessment and research.

In addition to the lectures, the conference included a poster session featuring presentations from both NIH intramural researchers and nurse scientists across the country. Topics included symptom identification in the ICU, diabetes symptom self-care, methods to ease distress among pediatric cancer patients and a variety of programs on symptom management related to cancer and chemotherapy in adults.

In her closing remarks, NINR director Dr. Patricia Grady discussed the importance of symptom management research within the current drive for health care reform. “We recognize now that the one-size-fits-all approach to symptom management really fails many patients.”

She added, “Moving forward, we need to define better ways that biology, behavior and environment interact to affect the emergence and severity of symptoms…I want to provide special encouragement to members of the public to join us as partners in our research as we strive to ensure that we are addressing the health care needs and priorities of the families and communities we serve.”

A videocast of the conference is available at More information on upcoming NINR 25th anniversary events is available at NIHRecord Icon

back to top of page