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Brockport professor's book recognized nationwide

by Margaret Stewart - Copy Editor
Thu, Feb 21st 2019 01:00 pm

Graduate program director and professor in the Department of Nursing at The College at Brockport Elizabeth Heavey, published the third edition of her book Statistics for Nursing. It was selected as the number one book of the year by the American Journal of Nursing (AJN) in the Nursing Research Category.

One of the biggest differences this edition provides is the increased number of visual aids supplied throughout the text. Heavey also ensures instructors are provided with supplemental material.

“I find the more support that you can offer to faculty teaching the course, the better the students in the courses end up doing,” Heavey said.

The “Heavey” book, as some call it, is not only a staple in Brockport’s Nursing Department, but is used in over 120 schools nationwide. 

Nursing student, Shelby Rojas, expressed in an email that from day one, Heavey has helped with her journey in the department. Describing her as always accessible, Rojas wrote that Heavey takes the time to care when things become difficult.

“She was there for me every time I felt like giving up and dropping out,” Rojas wrote. “She called me personally on the phone. Dr. Heavey answers questions and emails promptly and always explains things so that it is easy to understand. Day or night, she is answering her emails even during winter and summer breaks.”

Heavey has always prioritized her students. Recently, unhappy with the quality of texts she was presented with, Heavey compiled her own knowledge on the subject to better serve her students.

“The whole reason I was writing it was to help nurses understand statistics in a nursing setting because then they can go on and do things in the professional field,” Heavey said.

Thanks to her support and guidance, continuing on into the professional field is precisely what Rojas plans to do.

“She helped me to feel motivated to pursue my goal to get into the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program here at Brockport,” Rojas said. “She also continues to influence my decision to continue on with my Doctorate in Nursing Practice.”

The issue Heavey had with her students was that they understood how to do mathematical calculations but could not grasp how to use them in a clinical application.

“They knew how to do the calculations, which to me was the least important part, you have to understand where the calculations come from,” Heavey said. “I’m not as concerned if you are doing the math calculation as much if you’re understanding the concept and able to apply the concept.”

In order to address this issue, Heavey created her text based on clinical experience.

“This class is much more applied and almost everything I teach in it is based upon clinical practice,” Heavey said. “By putting it in a clinical context, the nurses realize its nursing and it takes the anxiety out of it. It is a way to provide better patient care which is what nurses are motivated to do.”

One of the first students to pass through the RN to BSN program was Renee Biedlingmaier, who is now a professor in the same department.

“She takes a very abstract concept and makes it tangible for nursing students,” Biedlingmaier said.

Rojas agrees, explaining it was Heavey’s book that simplified the subject for her, making it easier to understand.

“She actually makes statistics enjoyable by the way she teaches it,” Rojas wrote. “You can see her passion for statistics and epidemiology through the way she teaches through the book and her lectures.”

Throughout her career, her concern for equal access has been a constant motivation. After completing nursing school, Heavey landed in Miami where she encountered many groups with big health disparities, particularly those of Haitian descent in the country. 

“What I saw was what happens when people don’t have access to pre-natal care and when people are afraid of being caught, so they don’t come in until the situation is disastrous,” Heavey said.

It was these experiences in which Heavey connected with her patients. The drive to help others flourish changed her perspective on life, so much so that when she was ready to have children, Haiti was on her mind.

“I just felt very connected to my patients and I always wanted to be a mother,” Heavey said. “Haiti was a country that was very near and dear to my heart.”

Her adopted daughter, Gabrielle, now 15, was born in Haiti. When Heavey first brought her home, Gabrielle was in very poor health and needed immediate surgeries and chemotherapy. 

 “The faculty [at Brockport] were extremely supportive and there was no question of, ‘if’ I had to go and rush home at some point,” Heavey said. “That was just the priority and we just figured out how to make it happen.”

The college’s department holds similar values, which has always made Brockport a perfect fit for Heavey.

“The things that really matter to me, which are teaching well, taking care of my patients and taking care of my family, were the same values that my department held,” Heavey said.

So when, six years later, she had 24 hours to decide if she would adopt Nathanial, her eight-year-old son who is also of Haitian descent, there was no doubt about it. She picked him up in New York City.

Her children, especially her daughter, have helped shape the way that she teaches. 

“A lot of people learn in ways not in the traditional sense of learning,” Heavey said. “My daughter has a learning disability and I see how she breaks down everything and it made me cognisant of all kinds of learners and what kinds of access they need.”

This kind of teaching is what defines students’ learning experiences and improves them for the better.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher for statistics or a better role model for nursing,” Rojas wrote. “I will continue to look up to Dr. Heavey for the duration of this program and know I can trust in her for all my needs and concerns while going through this journey of becoming a FNP.”

Leaving her mark on the college after 15 years, Heavey is systematically changing the face of learning within the major, one visual, one audiobook, one new learning tool at a time.