Improving Skin Cancer Detection through Research and Clinical Practice

Aug 16, 2016

Despite nurse practitioners (NPs) being the health-care providers of choice for millions of patients in the United States, research on their abilities to detect skin cancer and subsequently help reduce morbidity and mortality is scarce.

Passionate about addressing this knowledge deficit, Delaney Stratton (BSN ’15) is pursuing both her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) to become a nurse-scientist and her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree to become a family nurse practitioner with the goal of joining a dermatology practice.

Dermatology played a significant role in Delaney’s life at an early age. A self-described “go-getter with a Type A personality” today, Delaney says that in middle school, she spent much of her time looking at her feet and avoiding eye contact with others due to severe acne and psoriasis.

“Acne may seem like a very trivial thing, but it destroyed my self-confidence,” she said. “I would have to put on a mask of makeup before I was able to go out in public. When I finally visited a dermatology office and the physician assistant said, ‘I’m going help you,’ the sense of relief I felt was really indescribable.”

Since that initial life-changing experience, Delaney says the more she’s learned in nursing, the more her interest in dermatology has expanded.

“Now my interest lies in skin cancer detection, because it’s a disease process that is easy to prevent and detect, yet continues to be a major public health problem in the United States,” she said.

Delaney knew she wanted to become a nurse practitioner early on, but was first introduced to nursing research as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) honors student. Under the guidance of her faculty mentor Lois J. Loescher, PhD, RN, FAAN, associate professor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, for her honors thesis, Delaney conducted a survey of nurse practitioners in Arizona to assess their acceptance of mobile teledermoscopy (MTD), a novel technology used to help detect skin cancer.

A combination of a smart phone and a handheld device called a dermatoscope, primary care providers can use MTD to take a photo of a suspicious lesion and send it to an expert for diagnosis. If the lesion is deemed benign, patients avoid unnecessary biopsy or travel to a specialist, saving them time, money and stress.

Although most NP participants had never used MTD, they expressed a high level of interest and perceived the technology as a way to greatly improve diagnosis and positively impact their practice.

As a BSN student, Delaney disseminated her work at the Western Institute of Nursing annual research conference in 2015, and earlier this year, published her findings in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Delaney earned her BSN degree in May 2015 and began her DNP/PhD studies last August. She says she is thankful for continuing guidance and mentorship from Dr. Loescher, who helped inspire her passion for skin cancer research.

“I would not have gotten as far as I have if it weren’t for Dr. Loescher,” said Delaney. “She has provided me with so many different opportunities. At this point, she’s like an extension of my family. I’m very grateful to her.”