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Research Nurse Initiative

The Research Nurse Initiative (RNI) is a collaborative of clinical nursing faculty from twelve Penn State campuses who have been trained as research nurses. These professional nurses are engaged with numerous clinical and community agencies through their clinical and teaching experiences. RNI scholars have completed training in research skills and ethics (including CITI and GCP training). The cohort of RNI scholars offers a wide range of clinical specialties combined with the research competencies necessary to engage in research on projects targeting their communities. For more information, please contact Janice Penrod (814-863-9734 or or Nikki Hill (814-867-3265 or

RNI Members

Marianne Adam Schuylkill

Specialty: Family practice, health assessment, professional role transition, global nursing Research Interests: Diabetes, chronic illness, patient education/learning, community based health promotion and programming, qualitative research

Ashley Clark University Park

Specialties: Gerontology, medical/surgical Research Interest: Hip fracture outcomes, simulation, nursing education

Darlene Clark University Park

Specialties: Pharmacology, geriatric nursing, genetics, ethics, nursing workforce issues Research Interests: Nursing workforce issues

Elizabeth Cutezo University Park

Specialties: Family and community diversity, health planning, epidemiology Research Interests: Epidemiology, community-based interventions, diversity, life-change stress and exacerbations of rheumatoid arthritis

Cathleen Dillen Altoona

Specialties: Oncology, mental health Research Interests: Psychosocial oncology, mental health

Diane Ebken University Park

Specialties: Mental health, drugs of abuse, addictions Research Interests: Issues related to mental health and drug use

Milton Evans Worthington Scranton

Specialties: Community health, pediatrics Research Interest: Public health

Justina Ferguson Worthington Scranton

Specialties: Critical care, nursing administration Research Interests: Palliative care team and support in the ICU, nurses’ perceptions of bedside reporting, retention and mentoring programs for new nurse hires, stroke and community education

Christopher Garrison University Park

Specialties: Gerontology, simulation, medical/surgical Research Interests: Gerontology, simulation, nursing education

Sherry Goertz Mont Alto

Specialty: Psychiatric mental health Research Interests: Teen suicide, religious coping in persons with mental illness

Brenda Holtzer Abington

Specialties: Pediatric nursing, care coordination for children with special needs, evidence-based practice utilization in clinical practice, outcomes in nursing education Research Interests: Coordination of care for at-risk populations, nursing education models and outcome studies

Jill Kargo Altoona

Specialties: Fundamentals, medical/surgical, community health Research Interests: Adult learning, curriculum development and leadership

Margo Kertis Behrend

Specialties: Maternity, women’s health, education Research Interests: Adult learners, nursing interventions for positive birth outcomes

Erin Kitt-Lewis University Park

Specialties: Long-term care, critical care Research Interests: End of life, family caregiving

Tracey Kleinmeyer Altoona

Specialties: Adult medical/surgical, emergency, trauma, post-anesthesia care, ambulatory surgery, endoscopy Research Interests: Complimentary/alternative therapies for reducing stress and test anxiety, sleep hygiene

Janet Knott New Kensington

Specialties: Technology use in classrooms, simulation, adult and pediatric cardiovascular and pulmonary care Research Interests: Use/effectiveness of educational modalities, simulation as an educational modality

Suzanne Kuhn Altoona

Specialties: Dying and death, Home Health, Ethics Research Interests: Animal Therapy in Healthcare, End of Life Issues, Nursing Education

Sharon Lacue Altoona

Specialties: Nursing simulation, gerontology, health assessment Research Interests: Simulation in nursing (standardized patients, deliberate practice)

Dede McCreary Altoona

Specialties: Community health nursing, leadership/management Research Interests: Patient experience, patient satisfaction, patient safety, quality, leadership, health care innovations, nursing job satisfaction, shared governance

Sarah McVeigh University Park

Specialties: Adult/gerontology, medical/surgical Research Interests: Nursing education, simulation, process improvement initiatives

Deborah Strickland New Kensington

Specialties: Geriatrics, palliative care, community Research Interests: Palliative care for chronic disease in the elderly

Mary Anne Ventura University Park

Specialties: Physical assessment, fundamentals, medical/surgical, family practice Research Interests: Clinically based research; changing skills, techniques, procedures, and equipment for better patient outcomes

Donna Volpe Worthington Scranton

Specialties: Obstetrics, fundamentals, mental health, case management, informatics, nursing leadership Research Interests: Flipped classroom, improving nursing through evidence-based practice