Neville E. Strumpf, PhD, RN, FAAN
After interviewing three older adults who had been restrained when hospitalized, Neville E. Strumpf wondered why anyone would put patients through this terrifying and humiliating experience. She and research partner Lois K. Evans, PhD, FAAN, RN, another faculty member at Penn Nursing Science, set out to study the impact of this then common practice — and to see what they could do about it.
“My research on frail older adults changed standards of care and significantly influenced geriatric practice.”
PhD – New York University – 1982
MS – Russell Sage College – 1973
BS – State University of New York – 1969
A Scientific Basis for Restraint-Free Care
Through two decades of research, first published in 1988, Drs. Strumpf and Evans showed the emotional and physical harms of being restrained and established a scientific basis for restraint-free care. They testified before Congress, wrote papers, and worked with professional organizations and regulatory agencies to advocate for restraint-free care. By 2000, restraint-free care was widely recognized as the standard of practice, especially in nursing homes. When the American Academy of Nursing developed “Five Things Nurses and Patients Should Question” in 2014 to ensure patients receive necessary but not harmful care, not using physical restraints with older patients was on the list, based on the research by Drs. Strumpf and Evans.
Along with her leading-edge work in gerontology, Dr. Strumpf led Penn Nursing as interim dean from 2000-2001. During that time, she facilitated strategic planning, faculty governance, and scholarship, easing the transition from one dean to the next.
Providing Safe, Humane Care for Older Adults
In the first clinical trial on reducing physical restraints, funded by the National Institute on Aging, Drs. Strumpf and Evans demonstrated that with staff education and consultation by a geriatric nurse specialist, restraint use could be safely reduced in nursing homes without any increase in serious falls, more staff, or the use of psychoactive drugs. Their other research showed that restraints were also unnecessary in hospitals when other methods were used.
Families of hospitalized older patients and geriatric nurse experts play a key role in restraint-free care. When families share information about the patient’s usual behavior and care, geriatric nurse experts and other nurses can develop a humane care plan to ensure the safety of the patient.
Restraint-free care has also been adopted in other countries, including in Europe, and Korea and Taiwan, based on the research by Drs. Strumpf and Evans. Dr. Strumpf’s other research focused on quality of life for older cancer patients, access to services for older adults who are refugees, end-of-life care in nursing homes, and prevention of falls. She received about $12 million in federal and foundation grants for her research and for programs in geriatric education. She is the author or co-author of more than 100 articles, book chapters, and books.
Teaching Generations of Geriatric Nurse Practitioners
By sending generations of gerontology nurse practitioners into clinical practice, and developing other new models of care, Dr. Strumpf also improved care for older adults. In the early 1980s, she helped develop the first gerontology nurse practitioner program at Penn Nursing Science.
Through the gerontologic nursing research center at Penn Nursing, Dr. Strumpf has helped develop nursing leaders and researchers. She helped establish the center and served as its first director. From 2001 to 2010, the center was a John A. Hartford Foundation Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence. Through mid-2016, it was called the Center for Integrative Science in Aging, and served as an inter-professional community of scholars that conducted aging research and mentored the next generation of scientists.
As one of the founders of the Gerontologic Nursing Consultation Service (now called the Penn Nursing Consultation Service) in 1990, Dr. Strumpf helped hospitals and health systems, nursing homes, area agencies on aging, law firms, and family caregivers improve care for older adults.
Moving Penn Nursing Science Forward as Dean
As interim dean from 2000 to 2001, Dr. Strumpf moved strategic planning initiatives forward, reinvigorated faculty governance, and continued to build Penn Nursing’s reputation for scholarship. Her transparent leadership helped rebuild faculty confidence and governance, and develop consensus on the school’s key goals, including strengthening the research program. Ensuring that faculty had the necessary time and resources to write successful grant proposals and conduct research was a key part of strengthening research. The school hired staff to provide coaching on grant writing and to review grants.
Dr. Strumpf also advocated to maintain the school’s baccalaureate program, which some university officials thought was unnecessary, and worked to ensure that the LIFE (Living Independently For Elders) program would be sustainable and financially viable. The nurse-led program, part of the federal Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, provided comprehensive medical and social services to frail, community-dwelling older adults, most of whom are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.
Now part of Mercy Health and called Mercy LIFE – West Philadelphia, the program provides comprehensive medical, health, recreational, and social services to promote independence at home. Nurses from Penn Nursing are part of the interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, therapists, and social workers, who evaluate needs and develop a customized program of care.
Mentoring and Consulting on Gerontology Education and Care
After returning to the nursing faculty, Dr. Strumpf served as chair of the University of Pennsylvania Faculty Senate and the Penn Nursing’s Faculty Senate. Although she formally retired in 2008, Dr. Strumpf calls her retirement “invisible.” She coordinates the school’s faculty mentoring program, which provides faculty with mentorship and career development support, chairs the advisory board of the Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, and consults on other projects.
Outside of Penn, Dr. Strumpf is president of the board of the Ralston Center, a not-for-profit organization in West Philadelphia that provides services and support to people 55 years of age or older so they can live in their own homes and communities as they age. She also consults with universities and foundations on gerontology education and care.
Selected Career Highlights
- Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame, Sigma Theta Tau International
- Fellow, Gerontological Society of America
- Distinguished Researcher Award, Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association
- Distinguished Alumni Award, State University of New York