1. Cesario, Sandra K. PhD, RNC, FAAN

Article Content

Critical care nurses provide care for individuals and families across the lifespan. From the early antenatal period through senescence, specialty care is often needed to optimize the outcomes for the critically ill. Guided by principles of physical and psychosocial growth and development, the critical care nurse meets the needs of individuals from the time they are conceived until end-of-life care is required. The dimension of age and stage of development adds another degree of complexity to the already complex care provided by nurses working in high-acuity areas. Consideration of the biological and environmental factors influencing health, growth, human development, and aging enables nurses to plan appropriate care unique to the individuals entrusted to their care. Examining care from a lifespan perspective also aids the nurse in identifying health disparities on the basis of age group and developmental ability.


The healthy human body is in a constant stage of change and development, passing through many life changes that have common biological and psychosocial characteristics that can be expected and are considered in planning care. The critical care nurse takes these physiologic changes and sociocultural expectations into consideration when providing care following unexpected, life-threatening changes and events that are imposed upon an individual because of accident, injury, or illness. Some life changes come about through behaviors such as the use of drugs and alcohol and violence or other risk-taking behaviors. Again, the critical care nurse is at the bedside in an effort to make these individuals whole again.


The lifespan creates a context in which human health and illness occurs. How the nurse interacts with a patient and his or her family is rooted in his or her knowledge of lifespan issues as well as the medical diagnosis for which the individual is being treated. Methods of communication, relational issues, and cognitive abilities are all impacted by developmental factors.


Texas Woman's University (TWU), located on 3 different campuses in Denton, Dallas, and Houston, offers nursing education at the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels. Lifespan and developmental stage are important frameworks in organizing the nature and composition of required courses at TWU, such as the Aging course, end-of-life modules, and the Women and Families course, in which conception and birth is a focus. Knowledge of lifespan also enhances the ability of the faculty to meet the learning needs and styles of students from a wide range of age groups. The 3 campuses work together as a cohesive college to offer programs at all levels that prepare beginning baccalaureate nurses (BS) for entry into practice through the education of nurse scientists (PhD) and advanced practice nurses (DNP). Initiated in 1971, the TWU College of Nursing was the first Southwestern university to offer a PhD in this discipline. In 2008, the DNP program was started on the Dallas campus, leading the way for doctorally prepared advanced nursing practice. Started this year, the DNP to PhD bridge program is gaining popularity as demand has increased for individuals with dual-doctoral degrees. To date, approximately 700 students have graduated from TWU's doctoral-level programs and are employed in nursing positions in academia, clinical practice, research, and policy development throughout the United States.


The vision statement of the College of Nursing is Pioneering Nursing's Future: An Adventure in Excellence. As evidenced by the articles published in the current issue of CCNQ, TWU students and faculty bring this vision to life as their articles demonstrate best nursing practices and cutting edge research that highlight the role of the critical care nurse across the lifespan. All of the manuscripts in this issue were written by students and faculty from TWU.


Sandra K. Cesario, PhD, RNC, FAAN


PhD Program Coordinator College of Nursing Texas Woman's University - Houston