Oct. 3, 2019

Foundation chair in parent-infant mental health devoted to helping children and families overcome adversity

50 Faces of Nursing: Nicole Letourneau, Professor at UCalgary Nursing

Parental mental illness, addictions and family violence: these are some of the critical issues Dr. Nicole Letourneau (PhD) has examined in her research driven by a desire to promote the health of children and families. It is through community-based studies that her dedication comes to light, as the lead on projects related to parent-child support and intervention that seek to understand and develop evidence to guide best practices.

Letourneau is principal investigator of the Child Health Intervention and Longitudinal Development Studies Program (CHILD), focused on parenting, attachment and child development in the context of maternal depression, family violence and other adversities. In this role she leads multiple projects, including:

  • The Alberta Pregnancy Outcome and Nutrition (APrON) cohort study collecting data on mothers, beginning in the first or second trimester of their pregnancy and then following up with their children. APrON focuses on the influence and interactions between parental mental health, nutrition and genetics on infant and child development.
  • Attachment and Child Health (ATTACH), a community intervention program focused on helping parents promote secure attachments with their preschool children that’s now being independently offered by several Calgary agencies serving high psychosocial risk mothers.
  • Video Feedback Intervention for Depressed Mothers and Infant (VID-KIDS), a nurse-delivered intervention for mothers with postpartum depression that aims to support healthy maternal-child relationships and child development.

“Taken together, these projects are designed to help children and families overcome the most difficult of challenges to meet their potential,” Letourneau writes.

Along with the roles mentioned, Letourneau is also a research professor at the Cumming School of Medicine in paediatrics, psychiatry & community health sciences, the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation Chair in Parent-Infant Mental Health, the director of RESOLVE Alberta (Research & Education for Solutions to Violence) and president-elect of CARNA.

Colleague Bikram Sekhon (BN’14, MN’19) says Letourneau exemplifies the possibilities for an RN in research and leadership. “She was my thesis supervisor and I can say firsthand she has been a great advocate for her students' mental health while providing exceptional support through their graduate school experience.”

Nicole Letourneau, one of the 50 Faces of Nursing at the University of Calgary, Nursing Faculty

Nicole Letourneau's research focuses on parent-child support

What’s an unforgettable experience from your time at UCalgary Nursing?

“I felt so welcomed when I first moved to Calgary. Several members of the faculty dropped by, at both my office and my home, just to say hello and to see how I was settling. They went above and beyond to make me feel at home in the Faculty of Nursing.”

What most excites you about the future of nursing or changes coming in the profession?

“I am excited that the profession of nursing is growing and evolving, taking on new roles in the clinical arena, for example in the expanded ability of registered nurses to prescribe and order tests, and in the new leadership opportunities for nurse practitioners.

“I am excited that nurses are embracing higher education so that they can ask and answer important research questions that can inform our disciplinary practice. So often we need to borrow knowledge from other disciplines to provide evidence-based care. We need to take a lead in building and shaping the knowledge base for nursing — and others can borrow from us! That can only be done with a strong disciplinary foundation in nursing research.”

Is there a nursing issue you are especially passionate about or you would like to change?

“I am passionate about the nursing profession’s ability to change lives for the better, especially those of infants and young children. I want the profession to fully embrace the promise and opportunity of research to inform and improve practice. For example, I would like to see baccalaureate-prepared nurses promote the investigation of important issues affecting their patients and clients.”

“Nurses have a unique perspective on health that embraces all the determinants of health, including social conditions. Society suffers when nurses are unable to contribute to people's health — when nurses are unable to create evidence of effective and innovative care approaches that focus on all the determinants of health. I am passionate about doing and promoting nursing research that can change lives for the better.”

Your advice for aspiring nurses?

“Nursing is an amazing career that can prepare you for almost any challenge. There are many paths to success including clinical, research, teaching and administration. The opportunities are endless! Get as much education as you can, and do as much as you can to make a difference in society. That's one of the natural gifts of being a nurse: every day, in so many ways, you can make a big difference in people's lives!”

One luxury in life you’d rather not live without?

“Downhill skiing is a passion and my ‘life luxury.’ I absolutely love being outdoors and active, rain, snow or shine!”

Nicole Letourneau, Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation Chair in Parent-Infant Mental Health, the director of RESOLVE Alberta (Research & Education for Solutions to Violence) and president-elect of CARNA.

Letourneau is the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation Chair in Parent-Infant Mental Health.

All through 2019, we'll be highlighting 50 Faces of Nursing and profiling nursing members in celebration of our 50th anniversary. If you know someone noteworthy (faculty, staff, alum, students, partners, etc.) who you would like us to feature, tell us more with this short online form. For more, visit nursing.ucalgary.ca/50