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Family history inspires award-winning student’s work with seniors

Jan 2, 2018
Guylaine Spencer

 Marie-Lee Yous

Marie-Lee Yous, a Masters student in the School of Nursing, has received a research award from the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Hamilton Halton Alzheimers Society Foundation. The grant will support Yous’ work on her Masters thesis, which involves gerontology. This is the second honour for Yous this year. In September, the Gerontological Nursing Association of Ontario (GNAO) from the Greater Hamilton Area Chapter granted her an Education Bursary. 

“My thesis is about the nursing experiences of older adults living with responsive behaviours on acute medical units,” says Yous. “Responsive behaviours consist of a way of expressing needs and concerns for clients with dementia. It could be physical or verbal behaviours and can include kicking, spitting, resistance to care, swearing. It’s a really big issue, especially in acute care units at this time. We have a growing population of older adults in hospitals, but nurses aren’t always well equipped to manage those behaviours.”

In addition to studying full time and participating as a research trainee at Aging, Community and Research Health Unit (ACHRU), Yous works part time as a nurse in a long-term care unit in an acute care hospital in Hamilton. She has worked in the hospital for three years since graduating from McMaster University with her BScN.

When asked why she became interested in this area of nursing, Yous explains that “gerontology is a field that is very close to my heart. I’ve never had a relationship with grandparents. They were lost during the war. My parents came to Canada from Cambodia after the civil war. The civil war started in April 1975 after Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge Regime took power. More than two million Cambodian lives were lost. My mother would tell me stories about her grandfather. He had dementia, and he wandered away from home during the civil war. He was never found. I hope to make a difference in dementia care in Canada, first of all, because I’m born here and I want to contribute to this country that has given my family such a good place to live and given us such good opportunities. My parents value education and that’s why I’ve decided to further my education with nursing. I’m interested in pursuing a PhD and hopefully within McMaster as well. I love the education here. It’s such a great environment. The curriculum is wonderful and the faculty is great as well. I’m interested in teaching and pursuing more research. I just discovered my love for research when I started my Masters.”

As part of her Masters thesis study, Yous is also exploring PIECES education. PIECES stands for Physical. Intellectual. Emotional. Capabilities. Environment. Social. “That’s training for staff in the hospital. It’s usually been implemented in long-term care homes, but it’s recently been implemented in acute care hospital settings too. The training program helps nurses and other allied health staff members effectively address responsive behaviours in hospitals with patients with dementia. It’s a wholistic approach of looking at a person with dementia, and it also incorporates families.”

Dr.  Jenny Ploeg is Yous’ thesis supervisor. “Marie-Lee demonstrates a wonderful commitment to nursing and nursing research and her research will give new understanding to an area of concern for many nurses,” says Ploeg. “It is truly a joy to work with Marie-Lee as her supervisor and in the Aging, Community and Health Research Unit.”


Palliative care study findings and resources are now available online

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