Steve Zylius / UCI
Helping Others Help Themselves
Adeline “Adey” Nyamathi | Founding Dean, Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing
If there’s a theme to the impressive career of Adeline “Adey” Nyamathi, Ph.D., ANP, FAAN, it’s about pulling people up. That’s what nursing is about really: caring for individuals who are vulnerable and then helping them maintain a new level of health. Founding dean of the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing and a Distinguished Professor of nursing science at UCI, Nyamathi has done it all in her 40 years of service, from community nursing to teaching to research. She has more than 200 peer-reviewed publications to her name and has traveled extensively, conducting research from Los Angeles’ skid row to rural India.
A nurse practitioner and a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, Nyamathi brings that global perspective and roll-up-your-sleeves experience to UCI as nursing education enters an important new phase, transitioning from a program to a full-fledged school. Supported by a $40 million gift from the William & Sue Gross Family Foundation, the school will more than double in size over the coming years.
But more than that, Nyamathi says, the school will empower the nurses of tomorrow to be the voices for those in need. She took time from her busy schedule – she still travels to India for research purposes twice a year – to speak with UCI Magazine contributor Shari Roan about her vision for the profession.
Q: What drew you into nursing?
Nyamathi: Many of us aspire to become nurses because we want to care and express empathy for people who are suffering from illness as well as people who need advice and counseling on keeping healthy. What appeals to me the most is utilizing the skills we learned to help other people improve their health.
Q: You’ve done many jobs, from bedside nursing to research to education. What do you enjoy most?
Nyamathi: I am most passionate about homeless individuals who live on skid row in Los Angeles. These people need help and support and are stigmatized by so many different entities, sometimes even by healthcare providers. I get much satisfaction from leading research teams that work with this vulnerable population. We have also worked with women and men who come out of jails and prisons. One of my favorite projects involves developing role models among people with histories of incarceration and homelessness. These role models are trained to be part of our team and learn the skills of conducting research. They have walked in the shoes of the participants we hope to enroll in our studies and teach our nurses and other team members about cultural sensitivity. We’ve done a lot to help them with re-entry into society.
“What appeals to me the most is utilizing the skills we learned to help other people improve their health.”
Q: What do you do on your travels to rural India?
Nyamathi: I work with a population of women who are HIV-infected and diagnosed with AIDS. We help them improve their health and quality of life, boost their nutritional status, better their parenting skills, and learn how to be sustainable. Once we’re gone, they continue to take their medication and maintain a livelihood for themselves and their families.
Q: Do nurses today have more opportunities to do jobs other than traditional bedside nursing, such as research or community nursing?
Nyamathi: We have a National Institute for Nursing Research; it’s one of the National Institutes of Health that’s solely dedicated to nursing. Many nurses receive funding to conduct their research through the NINR. Another aspect of nursing that’s often not talked about is working in the community. That’s where healthcare is going. For example, transitional care is critical today, helping people transition from the hospital and live healthy at home, without having to go back into the hospital or intensive care unit as often as they did before. Nurses do so well with that. We can really manage chronic illness well.
Q: What will nursing be like in the future?
Nyamathi: The nurse of the future will be very technologically oriented. There are all kinds of mobile technology apps. There are so many ways to keep in touch with people in our communities to remind them about healthy behaviors and monitor them from a distance. Community care and transitional care are becoming so important. The patient experience is another aspect. When people do go into the hospital, we want to ensure that their stay will be wonderful, they will be safe, and their care will be high-quality. This is very important to all of us in the fields of nursing, medicine, pharmacy and population health.
Q: What do you tell nursing students about relationships with their patients?
Nyamathi: I think it’s critical to be a good listener and show compassion and empathy. Treat every patient as if that person was a family member. That’s my motto. We are all about the patient experience. Our physician colleagues may only be with patients briefly, but nurses are there 24 hours a day.
Q: What changes would you like to see in nursing?
Nyamathi: At UCI, we’re one of the leaders in terms of developing nurse practitioners. Ours also take care of vulnerable people in the community. But in California, nurse practitioners are in a restricted practice. That means that doctors need to sign off on what they do. In many other states, these restrictions have been released. I am hoping that California will be one of those states in the near future. We can do much more if nurses can practice at the top of their licenses. We need to keep working on that.