Catherine Gilliss, PhD, RN, FAAN

Dean and Professor
Campus Phone
Address Postal

2 Koret Way, Rm 319C
UCSF Box 0604
San Francisco, CA 94143
United States

Mary Starke Harper Lecturer, Hartford Centers of Excellence, 2019
Lifetime Achievement Award, National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, 2019
Duke University Medal for Distinguished Service, Duke University, 2017
Fellow, Distinguished Careers Institute, Stanford University, 2015
Jane Norbeck Distinguished Alumna, University of California, San Francisco, 2013
Distinguished Contribution to Family Nursing Research Award, 8th International Family Nursing Conference, Bangkok, Thailand, 2007
Jean S. Vallance Lecturer, School of Nursing, College of Health & Human Development, Pennsylvania State University, 2007
Wall of 100, Distinguished Alumni of UCSF School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco, 2007
Honorary Doctoral Degree (Doctors of Humane Letters), University of Portland, 2007
Jean Kelley Lecturer, School of Nursing, University of Alabama, 2002
Outstanding Nurse Practitioner Educator, National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, 1995
Selected, Primary Health Care Policy Fellow, United States Public Health Service, 1993
Distinguished Alumna, School of Nursing, Duke University, 1991
President's Fellowship Award, University of California, San Francisco, 1983-1984
Robert Wood Johnson Fellowship, Primary Care, 1978-1979
BSN, 1971 - , Duke University

The Digital Drag and Drop Pillbox: Design and Feasibility of a Skill-based Education Model to Improve Medication Management.



We present the design and feasibility testing for the "Digital Drag and Drop Pillbox" (D-3 Pillbox), a skill-based educational approach that engages patients and providers, measures performance, and generates reports of medication management skills.


A single-cohort convenience sample of patients hospitalized with heart failure was taught pill management skills using a tablet-based D-3 Pillbox. Medication reconciliation was conducted, and aptitude, performance (% completed), accuracy (% correct), and feasibility were measured.


The mean age of the sample (n = 25) was 59 (36-89) years, 50% were women, 62% were black, 46% were uninsured, 46% had seventh-grade education or lower, and 31% scored very low for health literacy. However, most reported that the D-3 Pillbox was easy to read (78%), easy to repeat-demonstrate (78%), and comfortable to use (tablet weight) (75%). Accurate medication recognition was achieved by discharge in 98%, but only 25% reported having a "good understanding of my responsibilities."


The D-3 Pillbox is a feasible approach for teaching medication management skills and can be used across clinical settings to reinforce skills and medication list accuracy.

Implementing Electronic Tablet-Based Education of Acute Care Patients.


Poor education-related discharge preparedness for patients with heart failure is believed to be a major cause of avoidable rehospitalizations. Technology-based applications offer innovative educational approaches that may improve educational readiness for patients in both inpatient and outpatient settings; however, a number of challenges exist when implementing electronic devices in the clinical setting. Implementation challenges include processes for "on-boarding" staff, mediating risks of cross-contamination with patients' device use, and selling the value to staff and health system leaders to secure the investment in software, hardware, and system support infrastructure. Strategies to address these challenges are poorly described in the literature. The purpose of this article is to present a staff development program designed to overcome challenges in implementing an electronic, tablet-based education program for patients with heart failure.

Adapters, strugglers, and case managers: a typology of spouse caregivers.


Although family home care problems are frequently described in the health care literature, the ways in which families and other informal caregivers manage those problems are not often addressed. We conducted a descriptive analysis of interviews in which spouses caring for a partner with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease were asked to describe difficult home care problems and how they managed those problems. Analysis of these interviews indicated three recurring management styles. Adapters told stories about applying pre-existing skills to manage home care problems. Strugglers told stories of reoccurring home care problems for which they had few or no management strategies. Case managers' interview stories focused on the challenges of finding and coordinating home care services. These findings suggest that caregiving burden might be influenced more by the caregiver's management style than the demands of the care situation. Suggestions for tailoring support programs for the three types of caregivers are proposed.

The language of data: tools to translate evidence for nurses in clinical practice.


In clinical practice, nurses are expected to understand and implement the science that supports patient care, yet they fall short of goals to implement evidence in practice. One reason is difficulty in interpreting research results. Interpretation requires an ability to read and speak a language that many nurses have never mastered-the language of data. This article presents a skill-based solution for use in nursing professional development to improve nurses' understanding of statistics as a language.

Finding meaning in caring for a spouse with dementia.


Dementia caregiving can be burdensome with many challenges, especially for spousal caregivers who are elderly and may have limited resources and chronic conditions of their own. However, it can also be an opportunity for growth and transcendence. Thematic qualitative analysis was conducted with 11 caregiver interviews to investigate how spousal caregivers of individuals with dementia found personal meaning in their caregiving experience. Caregivers commonly had altruistic values, and the discipline to live those values. They found meaning by believing in a choice of attitude and perceiving satisfaction in living according to their values in life. They had faith in a higher power, a strong sense of love for their spouses and they derived strength from past challenges. Positive attitudes among caregivers of individuals with dementia may be enhanced by sharing these stories and strategies. Study results also provide an expansion beyond commonly held views of caregiving for nurses.

An academic-health service partnership in nursing: lessons from the field.



To describe the development of an academic-health services partnership undertaken to improve use of evidence in clinical practice.


Academic health science schools and health service settings share common elements of their missions: to educate, participate in research, and excel in healthcare delivery, but differences in the business models, incentives, and approaches to problem solving can lead to differences in priorities. Thus, academic and health service settings do not naturally align their leadership structures or work processes. We established a common commitment to accelerate the appropriate use of evidence in clinical practice and created an organizational structure to optimize opportunities for partnering that would leverage shared resources to achieve our goal.


A jointly governed and funded institute integrated existing activities from the academic and service sectors. Additional resources included clinical staff and student training and mentoring, a pilot research grant-funding program, and support to access existing data. Emergent developments include an appreciation for a wider range of investigative methodologies and cross-disciplinary teams with skills to integrate research in daily practice and improve patient outcomes.


By developing an integrated leadership structure and commitment to shared goals, we developed a framework for integrating academic and health service resources, leveraging additional resources, and forming a mutually beneficial partnership to improve clinical outcomes for patients.


Structurally integrated academic-health service partnerships result in improved evidence-based patient care delivery and in a stronger foundation for generating new clinical knowledge, thus improving patient outcomes.

Clinical leadership development in accelerated baccalaureate nursing students: an education innovation.


Nursing faculty members are responsible for assuring competence and safety in the preparation of prelicensure students who are preparing to deliver care in diverse settings. The growing complexity of care and the rapid expansion of knowledge have challenged the adequacy of traditional educational approaches. Proposed solutions have encouraged closer integration of classroom and clinical teaching. This article describes an integrated instructional approach to developing clinical leadership competencies in a cohort of accelerated, second-degree, baccalaureate nursing students. Fifty-six students completed an intensive clinical experience in long-term care settings in which they used evidence on improving care for persons with heart failure to practice the principles of delegation and supervision with nursing staff. The pre- and postassessments indicated improvement in heart failure knowledge and increased readiness for delegation and supervision of certified nursing assistants. As one component of the learning experience, the students completed reflection journals. The entries in the students' journals revealed five themes: (a) low leadership self-efficacy, (b) managing the credibility gap, (c) flexibility in communication strategies, (d) RN accountability in delegation and supervision, and (e) knowledge dissemination with diverse nursing staff. Students and faculty judged the learning experience to be successful and supported the experience for future cohorts of students. This report is one example of how innovative learning experiences could be developed to increase the "real-world" aspects of clinical care within a multidisciplinary team context for the entry-level learner.

The nature and scope of stressful spousal caregiving relationships.


The caregiving literature provides compelling evidence that caregiving burden and depressive symptoms are linked with stressful care relationships, however, relational difficulties around caregiving are seldom described in the literature. This article presents findings from content analysis of baseline interviews with 40 Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD) spousal caregivers enrolled in a home care skill-training trial who identified their care relationship as a source of care burden. Disappointment and sadness about the loss of the relationship; tension within the relationship; and care decision conflicts within the relationship were recurrent themes of relational stress in caregiving. These spousal caregivers had relationship quality scores below the mean and burden and depressive symptom scores above the means of other caregivers in the study. These findings provide support for developing dyadic interventions that help spouses manage relational losses, care-related tensions, and care decision-making conflicts.

Recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce in nursing: from evidence to best practices to policy.


Health policy makers, providers, clinicians, and social scientists are among those who have identified racial and ethnic diversification of the health care workforce as one strategy for solving the seemingly intractable problem of health disparities in the U.S. population. But evidence supporting the impact of such diversification on narrowing health disparities is lacking, thus making it unclear if the push for workforce diversification is empirically or politically driven. Moreover, data are largely derived from the study of physicians, making it difficult to generalize findings to nursing and other health professions. This article reviews the evidence that supports the impact of a diverse workforce on patient outcomes and delivery services. Assuming a positive social value in the absence of the data, the authors review the approaches that have been successful in diversifying the nursing workforce. The authors conclude with recommendations for research and policies, including best practices, for enhancing recruitment and retention of a diverse nursing workforce.

Application of a partnership model for transformative and sustainable international development.


There are differences of intent and impact between short-term and long-term engagement of U.S. academic institutions with communities of need in developing nations. Global health programs that produce long-term transformative change rather than transient relief are more likely to be sustainable and in ethical harmony with expressed needs of a region or community. This article explores characteristics of successful ethical partnerships in global health and the challenges that threaten them, introducing a consensus community engagement model as a framework for building relationships, evolving an understanding of needs, and collaboratively developing solutions and responses to priority health needs in underserved regions of the world. The community engagement model is applied to a case study of an initiative by a U.S. school of nursing to establish long-term relationships with the nursing community in the Caribbean region with the goal of promoting transformative change through collaborative development of programs and services addressing health care needs of the region's growing elderly population and the increasing prevalence of noncommunicable chronic diseases. Progress of this ongoing long-term relationship is analyzed in the context of the organizational, philosophical, ethical, and resource commitments embodied in this approach to initiation of transformative and sustainable improvements in public health.

Perspective: Autonomic care systems for hospitalized patients.


With advancements of medical technology and improved diagnostic and treatment options, children with severe birth defects who would otherwise have no chance of surviving post birth survive to go home every day. The average lifespan in the United States has increased substantially over the last century. These successes and many other medical breakthroughs in managing complex illnesses, particularly in frail, elderly patients, have resulted in an increasing percentage of patients with comorbidities. This, coupled with a policy change by Medicare (i.e., Medicare will no longer reimburse hospitals for costs associated with treating preventable errors and injuries that a patient acquires while in the hospital), creates an enormous challenge to health care providers. To meet the challenge, the authors propose a new model of health care--the autonomic care system (ACS)--a concept derived from the intensive care unit and the autonomic computing initiative in the computer industry. Using wound care as an example, the authors examine the necessity, feasibility, design, and challenges related to ACS. Specifically, they discuss the role of the human operator, the potential combination of ACS and existing hospital information technology (e.g., electronic medical records and computerized provider order entry), and the costs associated with ACS. ACS may serve as a roadmap to revamp the health care system, bringing down the barriers among different specialties and improving the quality of care for each problem for all hospitalized patients.

Improving the health of the community: Duke's experience with community engagement.


Evidence is accumulating that the United States is falling behind in its potential to translate biomedical advances into practical applications for the population. Societal forces, increased awareness of health disparities, and the direction of clinical and translational research are producing a compelling case for AHCs to bridge the gaps between scientific knowledge and medical advancement and between medical advancement and health. The Duke University Health System, the city and county of Durham, North Carolina, and multiple local nonprofit and civic organizations are actively engaged in addressing this need. More than a decade ago, Duke and its community partners began collaborating on projects to meet specific, locally defined community health needs. In 2005, Duke and Durham jointly developed a set of Principles of Community Engagement reflecting the key elements of the partnership and crafted an educational infrastructure to train health professionals in the principles and practice of community engagement. And, most recently, Duke has worked to establish the Duke Translational Medicine Institute, funded in part by a National Institutes of Health Clinical Translational Science Award, to improve health through innovative behavioral, social, and medical knowledge, matched with community engagement and the information sciences.

Great expectations: a position description for parents as caregivers: Part II.


Parents caring for a child with a chronic condition must attend to a myriad of day-to-day management responsibilities and activities. Part I of this two-part series (in the previous issue of Pediatric Nursing) reviewed both the adult and pediatric family caregiving literature within the context of four major categories of responsibilities: (a) managing the illness, which includes hands-on care, monitoring and interpreting signs and symptoms, as well as problem-solving and decision-making processes; (b) identifying, accessing, and coordinating resources, which involves assessing and negotiating community resources including health care providers; (c) maintaining the family unit, including balancing illness and family demands while at the same time attempting to meet the health and developmental needs of each family member; and (d) maintaining self, including physical, emotional, and spiritual health.. Part II presents a multifaceted list of parent caregiving management responsibilities and associated activities, and discusses nursing implications. The list was developed to facilitate "caregiving" dialogue between health care providers and families of children with chronic conditions. It is hoped that through such partnerships creative ways of educating, preparing, and supporting caregivers will be generated.

Partnering in the cultivation of the next generation of ethnic minority nurse scientists: responding to a compelling national agenda.


Health disparities continue to exist between communities of color and the poor and the health of the nation as a whole. Highly competent and culturally sensitive nurse researchers are needed to contribute to the elimination of disparities. There is however, an inadequate supply of nurse researchers of color and an insufficient number of students in the pipeline aspiring to careers as nurse researchers. The purpose of this article is to analyze a partnership model between nursing programs in a Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCU) with an evolving research presence and an Ivy League university with an research extensive environment. After four years of collaborating, minority undergraduate students have an increased interest in nursing research and the problems of health disparities, conduct original pilot studies, produce and deliver scholarly papers based on their pilots, publish in referred journals with their mentors, engage in networking with accomplished nurse researchers and leaders, and demonstrate increased enrollment and interest in graduate study. Faculties at both institutions exhibit enhanced competencies in the design and conduct of research related to eliminating disparities and in strengthening their respective research environments. The model demonstrates that the career trajectory of minority nursing students and the research capacity of faculty can be influenced through the deliberate application of elements of the model.

Great expectations: a position description for parents as caregivers: Part I.


Parents caring for a child with a chronic condition must attend to a myriad of day-to-day management responsibilities and activities. This two-part series examines parental roles and responsibilities in detail. Part I will review both the adult and pediatric family caregiving literature. It will also describe four major caregiving responsibilities with associated tasks in both direct and indirect illness-related care, which parents are expected to perform when caring for a child with a chronic condition. These are: (a) managing the illness; (b) identifying, accessing, and coordinating resources; (c) maintaining the family unit; and (d) maintaining self. Part II (to be published in the next issue of Pediatric Nursing) will present a multifaceted list of parent caregiving management responsibilities and associated activities drawn from the literature. Clinical nursing implications associated with caregiver responsibilities and tasks will also be addressed.

Family predictors of disease management over one year in Latino and European American patients with type 2 diabetes.


Family context is thought to influence chronic disease management but few studies have longitudinally examined these relationships. Research on families and chronic illness has focused almost exclusively on European American families. In this prospective study we tested a multidimensional model of family influence on disease management in type 2 diabetes in a bi-ethnic sample of European Americans and Latinos. Specifically, we tested how baseline family characteristics (structure, world view, and emotion management) predicted change in disease management over one year in 104 European American and 57 Latino patients with type 2 diabetes. We found that emotion management predicted change in disease management in both groups of patients as hypothesized, while family world view predicted change in both ethnic groups but in the predicted direction only for European Americans. Examining family context within ethnic groups is required to elucidate unique cultural patterns. Attending to culturally unique interpretations of constructs and measures is warranted. The import of family emotion management, specifically conflict resolution, in disease management deserves further study to support clinical intervention development. Examining multiple domains of family life and multidimensional health outcomes strengthens our capacity to develop theory about family contexts and individual health.

Education, Nursing
Faculty, Nursing
Societies, Nursing
Nursing Research
Families And Chronic Illness
Innovative Approaches To Nursing Intervention
Leadership And Organizational Development
Translational / Implementation Science