Connie M. Ulrich, PhD, RN, FAAN
Connie M. Ulrich was drawn to the study of bioethics early in her career when, as a pediatric nurse, she often worked with seriously ill pediatric patients and their families and was a member of a pediatric heart transplantation team. After completing her PhD in nursing ethics, Dr. Ulrich was the first nurse ever accepted into the postdoctoral training program in the NIH’s Department of Bioethics.
When she joined the Penn Nursing faculty and was appointed senior fellow at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 2003, she became the first nurse bioethicist at the university.
“I am committed to helping nurses develop the skills of bioethics and ensuring that the perspective of nurses is represented in bioethics.”
- PhD, University of Maryland,
- MSN, The Catholic University of America ,
- BSN, The Catholic University of America ,
- Diploma, Williamsport Hospital School of Nursing ,
- Postdoctoral Fellowship, National Institutes of Health, Department of Bioethics,
In the classroom, Dr. Ulrich provides bioethics education to help nursing students feel more confident to address the issues that they’ll face. The students who assist in her research learn how to protect patients involved in research and represent what she calls integrity in action. Dr. Ulrich is especially interested in mentoring students in bioethics, to ensure that the perspective of nurses is included in future work.
Using a bioethics lens to explore issues makes a difference in the lives of nurses and other health care providers, patients, families, communities, and society. Some of Dr. Ulrich’s other research has shown the importance of an ethical climate and ethics preparedness and confidence for nurses in nurse retention and job satisfaction. She also studies emerging technologies and patient information; ethical conflicts of nurse practitioners and physician assistants in clinical practice; and informed consent and placebo assignment in clinical trials. Dr. Ulrich provided testimony to the Presidential Bioethics Commission on the importance of ethics education for nursing and how ethics education influences the moral action of nurses with their patients.
Dr. Ulrich addresses the everyday ethical challenges of nurses and other health care providers and clinical researchers in their day-to-day work with patients and families. These challenges include understanding decision-making processes and issues related to research participation by seriously ill patients. With NIH-funding, Dr. Ulrich is exploring informed consent issues, especially how patients feel about the benefit and burdens of participating in research. The study is also examining the impact of the investigator, clinical characteristics, and pressure from other people on the risk-benefit assessment and subsequent retention of participants in cancer clinical trials. The results can be used to guide the information presented to cancer patients and to improve recruitment and retention.
Opportunities to Learn and Collaborate at Penn Nursing
Through inter-disciplinary work with colleagues at Penn and other universities, Dr. Ulrich is able to shed light on salient bioethical issues. In a recent collaboration, for example, she and colleagues from Penn and Dartmouth University developed a bioethics scholarship and training program for nurses and physicians in Tanzania.
Selected Career Highlights
- Fellow, American Academy of Nursing
- Bioethicist, National Heart Lung & Blood data safety and monitoring board for the CABANA Trial
- Faculty Award for Senior Research Faculty’s Significant Contribution to Nursing Scholarship
- Salzburg Seminar Global Fellow
- Author, Nursing Ethics in Everyday Practice
- Author, Moral Distress in the Health Professions
Ulrich, C. (2015). Enrolling patient participants in cancer clinical trials: what matters? Eastern Nursing Research Society 27th Annual Scientific Abstracts. Nursing Ethics, 64(2), E11-E12.
Rearden, J., Hanlon, A.L., Ulrich, C., Brooks-Carthon, M., Sommers, M. (2016). Examining differences in opportunity and eligibility for cancer clinical trial participation based on sociodemographic and disease characteristics. Oncology Nursing Forum, 43(1), 57-66.10.1188/16.ONF.57-66
Sefcik, J., Petrovsky, D., Streur, M., Toles, M., O’Connor, M., Ulrich, C.M., Marcantonio, S., Coburn, K., Naylor, M.D., & Moriarty, H. (2016). In Our Corner: A Qualitative Descriptive Study of Patient Engagement in a Community-Based Care Coordination Program. Clinical Nursing Research. Dec 1:1054773816685746. doi: 10.1177/1054773816685746. [EPub ahead of print]
Ulrich, C.M., Ratcliffe, S., Wallen, G., Zhou, Q., Knafl, K., & Grady, C (2016). Cancer clinical trial participants and assessment of risks and benefits. American Journal of Bioethics: Empirical Bioethics, 7(1), 42598.10.1080/23294515.2015.1034381. (Rated # 4 on the Altmetric score list and most downloaded article in three years with 676 downloads according to AJOB Empirical Bioethics Annual Report.)
Liu, J., & Ulrich, C. (2015). Mediation analysis in nursing research: A methodological review. Contemporary Nurse, 1-14. PMID: 26176804.10.1080/10376178.2015.1041999
Lucas, M., Barakat, L.P., Jones, N., Ulrich, C., & Deatrick, J. (2014). Expectations for function and independence by childhood brain tumor survivors and their mothers. Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics, 4(3), 233-251.10.1353/nib.2014.0068
Slota, C., Ulrich, C.M., Miller-Davis, C., Baker, K., Wallen, G.R. (2014). Qualitative inquiry: a method for validating patient perceptions of palliative care while enrolled on a cancer clinical trial. BMC Palliative Care, 13, 43.10.1186/1472-684X-13-43. eCollection 2014
Ulrich, C.M. (2014). Ebola is causing moral distress among African healthcare workers. British Medical Journal, 349, g6672.10.1136/bmj.g6672.
Ulrich, C. (2014). Listen to nurses who blow the whistle on shoddy Ebola care. Los Angeles Times.
Ulrich, C. (2014). [Letter to Editor] Recognizing the threats Ebola poses. Washington Post, October 15; https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/recognizing-the-threats-ebola-poses/2014/10/15/668e78f6-5321-11e4-b86d-184ac281388d_story.html