Innovative Researcher in Action
Interview with UMBC Assistant Professor Nancy Kusmaul, MSW, PhD
By Chinonye Donna Egbulem
On her journey as a faculty member at UMB:
Dr. Kusmaul is in her third year as Assistant Professor of the Baccalaureate Social Work Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She teaches policy, human behavior, and her newly developed elective on aging and culture. Kusmaul obtained her MSW degree with a specialization in Aging at the University of Michigan. Prior to entering the world of academia, she spent nearly a decade as a nursing home social worker. Her social work experience was with older adults; she’s worked in hospitals, nursing homes, adult day care, and home care settings. She later found herself researching the direct care workforce in nursing homes as a PhD student at the University at Buffalo, Social Welfare. Her current work centers on trauma-informed care, and the impact of trauma experiences on the workforce, especially as it relates to caregivers in long-term care settings, and organizational culture.
On how her research informs the work-life discussion:
Having watched low-wage workers struggle to balance their challenging home lives with the extraordinary demands of hands-on caregiving, Kusmaul was inspired to explore the long term impacts of trauma. She recounts her time spent hearing reports of the caregivers’ daily struggles: partners in jail, tenuous child arrangements, and working two, and sometimes three jobs, just to make ends meet in Rochester, NY. These observational studies were used to inform the health and mental health care systems about better ways to provide care that supports workers and clients. She recently participated in the Change Agents Policy Institute where she received extensive training on how to inform policymakers about the quality of care in nursing homes. She currently works with the Maryland Culture Change Coalition which advocates for the implementation of more person-centered care in nursing homes and assisted living centers.
On her current methodological approaches:
Dr. Kusmaul uses both qualitative and quantitative research methods to address her research goals. Her studies often use a mixed-methods research approach, which draws upon the personal stories of research participants to illuminate quantitative results in an effort to inform the policymakers and administrators about person-centered care. Her recent qualitative study explored how direct care workers’ definitions of care compare to definitions used in the nursing home regulations and by those in corporate offices. Additionally, she has conducted individual interviews, focus groups, and self-report surveys with human service workers and a variety of social service agencies and CNAs in nursing homes. She is currently exploring ways to conduct secondary analyses of large data sets like the Health and Retirement study to address her current research questions on nursing home performance.
On how her research informs public policy decisions related to work and family management:
As a social work practitioner, Kusmaul worked as the Director of Social Work for multiple nursing homes. Therefore, in addition to carrying a caseload, she was also on the management team and in regular contact with the administrators, which allowed her to become well versed in nursing home regulations. Knowing that policymakers are concerned with costs and with personal caregiving situations that affect business, she hopes to use her research to show the long-term benefits of investing in the health of their workers. She asserts that hands-on caregiving relationships are relationships; thus, if you have caregivers that are relatively healthy, they will be better equipped to care for clients, as well as to better manage their life responsibilities.
Congratulations to Dr. Nancy Kusmaul on her recent publication:
Hales, T., Kusmaul, N., Nochajski, T. (2016). Exploring the Dimensionality of Trauma-Informed Care: Implications for Theory and Practice. Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership, and Governance.