Nursing researcher Karen J. Aroian, RN, PhD, FAAN, has expanded the professions knowledge about the challenges facing immigrants and, in doing so, has left her mark on healthcare delivery as nurses put her findings into practice to better serve patients. Her work has earned her the prestige of being inducted into the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau Internationals International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame at the organizations International Nursing Research Congress this summer in Prague, Czech Republic.
Aroian and 18 other nurse researchers will be honored for significant and sustained research that has improved the profession and patients. “I have devoted decades of work into understanding immigrants from their perspective, what its like to live in their skin and the ordeals they go through to achieve a positive and better life,” Aroian, the Chatlos endowed professor and director of research at the University of Central Florida College of Nursing in Orlando, said. “Its an honor, and I feel like I am standing on the shoulders of giants,” she said.
As a member of an Armenian family that emigrated from Turkey and a psychiatric nurse, Aroian began studying immigrant health while a doctoral student in the 1980s. She became fascinated with her grandparents stories of escaping persecution in Turkey and finding family members in orphanages and wanted to learn more about the trauma associated with the immigrant experience. Her research debunked many myths at the time, such as immigrants have a predisposition to schizophrenia.
During her career, Aroian pioneered large-scale qualitative studies and blended qualitative and quantitative methods. Her influential paper on social support, “Family Support and Conflict among Former Soviet Immigrants” in the Western Journal of Nursing Research (1996) was one of the first to identify the sometimes negative impact of family social interactions, and is essentially a classic paper in the immigration literature, according to Arlene Michaels Miller, RN, PhD, FAAN, a professor at the Rush University College of Nursing in Chicago. She has investigated the adjustments of adolescents and adults from Poland, Ireland, the former Soviet Union, China, the Middle East, the Philippines and Latin America to life in the U.S. and has published extensively.
“I am looking to create a field that has importance and depth, and its further along than when I entered,” said Aroian, who facilitates other faculty members research, while pursuing her own studies. “I was in the right place in the right time, with a topic that became hot.”