The Center for Nursing Research, Innovation and Quality (NRIQ) at Texas Children’s Hospital

The Center for Nursing Research, Innovation and Quality at Texas Children's is the infrastructure to support robust clinical inquiry and advance the frontier of nursing knowledge to improve nursing practice and patient outcomes. The center is engaged in education, consultation and mentorship of clinical nurses in nursing research and evidenced based nursing practice. Nursing research conducted at Texas Children's Hospital is encouraged. We use a model of shoulder to shoulder mentoring on specific projects with clinical nurses and nurse scholars to conduct research or EBP. We also mentor dissemination of knowledge in abstract writing and journal publications or poster and oral presentations at national nursing conferences.

Strategic Goals 2019-2021

Goal 1: Lead pediatric and women’s health nursing research.

Goal 2: Foster opportunities within the TCH Nursing Research Enterprise to enhance the unique contributions of nursing science.

Goal 3: Partner with academic and clinical settings and align all TCH doctoral prepared nurses to participate in scholarly work to represent TCH.

Who We Are

As Nurse Scholars, we are mentors in the Center for Nursing Research, Innovation and Quality at Texas Children’s Hospital to support nursing scholarship throughout the organization. We are actively engaged in nursing research, evidence-based practice and quality improvement either as Principal investigators, leaders, and/or mentors. There are many Nurse Scholars (PhD and DNP)  throughout our organization who conduct nursing research and support clinical inquiry in nursing practice.  Below is a sample of current investigators.

Lynda Tyer-Viola, PhD, RN, FAAN, Vice-President, Assistant Chief Nursing Officer & Nurse Scholar

Lynda Tyer-Viola RNC PhD FAAN is a Vice President and the Associate Chief Nursing Officer at Texas Children’s Hospital. She is an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of OBGYN at Baylor College of Medicine and a Faculty Nurse Scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital. She earned her BSN from Boston University, a Masters in Nursing from University of Miami and a PhD from Boston College in 2005. She is certified in Inpatient Obstetrics and Advanced Nursing Administration and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. Dr. Tyer-Viola spearheads the development of Nursing Research and Clinical Inquiry for women, children and families at TCH. Her research interests include People living with HIV/AIDS, high risk obstetrics and the nursing workforce.  Currently she is engaged with a team in determining what caring behaviors make hospitalized adults feel safe and examining the effect of quality initiatives on decreasing racial disparities in maternal morbidity.  She most recently published “Comparing differences and similarities between Chinese and American women’s experiences of stress urinary incontinence and health seeking behaviors during pregnancy” in the International Journal of Childbirth.


Mary D. Gordon, PhD, APRN, CNS-BC, Nurse Scientist

Mary D. Gordon, PhD, APRN, CNS-BC is a Nurse Scientist at Texas Children’s Hospital. She has joint appointments in the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and the Department of Family Health at the University Of Texas Cizik School of Nursing at Houston. She earned both the Bachelor and Master degrees from Texas Woman’s University and PhD from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 2009. She is licensed as an Advanced Practice Nurse by the Texas State Board of Nursing and certified as a Clinical Nurse Specialist. As a Nurse Scientist, she conducts nursing research, teaches and mentors clinical staff about research and evidence based practice, and collaborates with researchers in the medical center and local Universities. Her research interests are instrument development, pediatric falls, and the nursing work environment. She most recently completed a collaborative multisite research study and developed a fall risk nomogram for use in the pediatric ambulatory environment. The manuscript, “Parents’ perception of fall risk and incidence of falls in the pediatric ambulatory environment”, has been submitted for publication and is in the review process.


M. Colleen Brand, PhD, APRN, NNP-BC, Nurse Practitioner Neonatal Nursing & Nurse Scholar

M. Colleen Brand is a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP). She has a MSN from the University of Texas Health Science Center Houston (1995) and a PhD from Texas Woman’s University (2013). She works in the NICU at Texas Children’s Hospital caring for premature and high risk infants and their families. She enjoys teaching, writing and research. Her research interests are mainly in the areas of Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (chronic lung disease associated with prematurity), infection and stress. She recently co-authored a chapter on infection in Merenstein & Gardner’s Handbook of Neonatal Intensive Care (9th ed), a chapter on thermoregulation in Core Curriculum for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (6th ed) and an article on stress in NICU nurses in Advances in Neonatal Care.


Darlene Acorda, PhD, RN, CPNP-PC, Clinical Specialist & Nurse Scholar

Darlene E. Acorda, Ph.D., RN, CNE, CPNP-PC, is a Clinical Specialist in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Texas Children’s Hospital. She is also an Adjunct Faculty in the graduate and undergraduate programs at the University of Texas Cizik School of Nursing. She earned her MSN in 2009 and her Ph.D. in 2020 from the University of Texas Cizik School of Nursing. She is a certified nurse educator and pediatric nurse practitioner specializing in primary care. With her quality improvement expertise, Dr. Acorda seeks to improve the care of hospitalized children and has published initiatives with a sustained impact on hospital-acquired conditions and rapid response evaluation. Dr. Acorda’s current research focuses on the experience of caregivers of children with medical complexity, especially those who are tracheostomy and ventilator dependent. She was recently awarded a grant from the Society for Simulation in Healthcare to explore how caregivers perceive the use of high-fidelity simulation in learning tracheostomy management. She also received funding from Sigma Theta Tau Zeta Pi Chapter to examine the challenges of caring for a child with medical complexity during a global pandemic. Her other research interests include instrument development and evaluation, pediatric to adult care transitions, ethnocultural differences in care, disparities in pediatric hospital care, and the use of ecological momentary assessment as a method of real-time evaluation and intervention for hard-to-reach populations.


Sheranda Fesler, PhD, RN, RNC-NIC, NE-BC, CPHQ, CPPS, Assistant Director of Clinical Practice and Nursing Quality & Nurse Scholar

Dr. Sheranda Fesler is the Assistant Director of Clinical Practice for the Acute Care and Cancer and Hematology Centers service lines, and the Assistant Director of Nursing Quality for the Texas Children’s Hospital enterprise. She is also Adjunct Nursing Faculty at Texas Woman’s University where she teaches in the online leadership and research courses. She completed her BSN from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in 2005, and graduate degrees (Master of Science in Nursing Education in 2008, Post-Master’s Certification in Health Systems Management in 2010, and PhD in Nursing Science in 2019) from Texas Woman’s University. She maintains several clinical nursing and leadership certifications, as well as quality improvement and patient safety certifications. Sheranda is an active member of and leader in several professional organizations, to include the National Association of Healthcare Quality’s Healthcare Quality Certification Commission (HQCC), and a Texas Nurses Association District 9 delegate. Her research interests include instrument development, quality and safety, and leader engagement, and she is currently working on a research proposal examining implicit bias across all levels of care. Dr. Fesler serves as a peer reviewer for several journals, and recently published, “Infusion center outpatient acuity: An integrative review of the literature”, in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing.


Nancy Hurst, PhD, RN, Director Women’s Support Services & Nurse Scholar

Dr. Hurst is director of Patient Education and Lactation/Milk Bank services for Texas Children's Hospital and the Pavilion for Women. She oversees clinical, operational and research activities for the Lactation/Milk Bank services and Patient Education program. Her expertise in breastfeeding and lactation management for mothers of hospitalized infants has led to clinical and research projects designed to improve patient outcomes. She served as the project leader for the hospital’s Baby Friendly Hospital designation, achieved in February 2016, and continues this work to obtain re-designation in 2021. Most recently, she leads an initiative to optimize patient and family education across the Texas Children's Hospital system. She currently holds an adjunct faculty position at the Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas School of Nursing in Houston. Dr. Hurst is an enthusiastic mentor for nursing and medical students pursuing their research project objectives. Her research has included various topics in breastfeeding and lactation, specifically related to human milk feeding and breastfeeding in the neonatal intensive care setting. She supports the Texas Collaborative for Healthy Mothers and Babies and serves as a member of the NICU-Breastfeeding Learning Collaborative group and co-chair of the Neonatal Sub-Committee. She currently serves on the International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation executive committee as treasurer and membership chair.


Tarra Kerr DNP, RN, NEA-BC, Assistant Vice President for Quality, Service, and Safety & Nurse Scholar

She earned her Bachelor’s in Science from University of Texas Medical Branch, her Masters in Nursing Leadership at the University of Texas in Arlington, and her Doctorate of Nursing Practice at the University of Texas School of Nursing. She is certified in Advanced Nursing Administration. Her research interests include topics related to workforce safety and wellbeing. Currently she is partnering on a grant awarded by Texas Health and Human Services Commission to focus on workplace violence prevention efforts in nursing. The manuscript, ‘Suicide Screening at a Large Pediatric Emergency Center”, has been recently accepted for publication in the Pediatric Emergency Care Journal.


Jennifer Sanders, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, Assistant Vice President of Nursing & Nurse Scholar

She earned her baccalaureate degree in Nursing from Lamar University, a Master’s Degree in Nursing Leadership from The University of Texas Medical Branch, and a Doctorate in Nursing Practice from the University of Texas Cizik School of Nursing. She is board certified as an advanced nurse executive by the American Nurses Credential Center. Jennifer’s interests include topics such as the healthy work environment, workplace violence, quality improvement and she champions projects that promote nurse wellness and safety. Jennifer is a member of several organizations including Sigma, the American Nurses Association, the Texas Nurses Association, the Houston Organization of Nurse Executives, and the American Nursing Informatics Association. Jennifer is a published author in two pediatric nursing textbooks and has presented at multiple local, regional, and national conferences on a variety of topics. Currently, Jennifer is working with a team to execute a Texas Department of State Health Services grant focused on innovative ways to prevent workplace violence against nurses.


Mary Jo and David Andre Research Grants

The Andre Research Grants are supported through the generous philanthropic gift of our past Chief Nursing Officer Mary Jo Andre and her family. The research grants support original clinical research, innovative patient care or quality improvement and are initiated by clinical staff nurses. The purpose of the Andre Research Grants is to advance nursing science and improve patient and family outcomes. The intent of the grants is to support the Nursing Strategic Plan and the Professional Practice Model. Completed studies will be featured as presentations throughout the year at Nursing Grand Rounds and at national and international conferences.

Jackie Ward, RN, DNP, NE-BC, Chief Nursing Officer, Senior Vice President, and the leadership of the Department of Nursing promote the Andre Research Grants annually through the Center for Nursing Research, Innovation and Quality at Texas Children’s Hospital. The Andre Research Grants serve to provide support to our clinical staff nurses to explore research ideas and clinical questions from the bedside. The goal is to create research teams to answer research questions, evaluate quality programs or discover innovative care. The research teams consisting of clinical staff nurses, Nurse Scholars, Clinical Specialists, subject matter experts and nursing leadership spend 6-12 months conducting research, innovation or quality improvement projects. The outcome of the Andre Research Grants is to advance nursing science and share knowledge through professional presentations and publications.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Applicants seeking an Andre Research Grant must be a registered nurse, in a staff nurse role, working at least 20 hours per week as a permanent benefits-eligible employee at TCH. Part-time nurses are encouraged to work collaboratively with a full-time nurse.
  • Registered nurses currently enrolled in a doctoral program or at the post-doctoral level are not eligible yet are encouraged to be active team members.
  • Research teams include clinical staff nurses, Nurse Scholars, Clinical Specialists, consultants, subject matter experts and nursing leadership as needed. Statistical support will be reviewed during the development process.
  • Each team ls required to have a Nurse Scholar to provide guidance and oversight, and to enhance the rigor of the investigation. The Andre Research Grant Committee, in conjunction with the CNO, can also provide assistance to potential applicants to locate a Nurse Scholar.
  • It is not necessary to have Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval prior to proposal submission; however, all funded proposals must be reviewed and approved by the IRB before the study is conducted. Additionally, participating in research studies requires the completion of the on-line educational program, the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) (, prior to beginning the study.
  • Review Andre Research Grant Rubric
  • Please review the Clinical Scholarship Procedure in Policy Tech as a resource document.

REVISED Deadlines for the Andre Research Grants

  • July 16, 2021 (5 pm):  Send letter of Intent with Nursing Director support, nurse’s CV and mentor's CV to
  • August 13, 2021 (5 pm): Grant proposals due. Email online packet to
  • August 27, 2021: Preliminary feedback provided if revisions are needed.
  • September 10, 2021:  Revised proposal due with requested modifications (if any).
  • September 24, 2021: Grant review process complete, proposals ranked, final recommendations for grant funding sent to CNO for approval.
  • October 13, 2021: Grants awarded during Nursing Grand Rounds.

Click here for the Application for Andre Grants

Scholarly Nursing Publications

Belonging to a profession means giving back to the discipline. Nurses at Texas Children’s play an integral role in education as well as advancing evidence based practice and research. This work can focus on the work environment, professional development, organizational support and other factors that influence the nurse or nursing outcomes. Click here to access a list of the recent peer reviewed publications and presentations from our nurses.

Evidence Based Practice and Research (EBPR) Shared Governance Council

Nursing Grand Rounds (Quarterly)

Quarterly nursing grand rounds are scheduled to showcase TCH scholars and visiting nurse scholars conducting research, evidence based practice, innovation and quality improvement projects.

Schedule of Presentations FY 2021

  • Visiting Nurse Scholar Grand Rounds: Tondi Harrison, PHD, RN, CPNP on November 3, 2020 1100-1500. She did Rounds on Effects of early experience on neurodevelopment in high-risk infants. She also provided sessions on State of Pediatric Nurse Science and Clinical Implications of her research in NICU.
  • Visiting Nurse Scholar Grand Rounds: Cecily Betz, PhD, RN, FAAN. The State of Pediatric Nursing is the topic. December 9, 2020, 1-3 PM
  • Nursing Grand Rounds: Mary D. Gordon, PhD, APRN, CNS-BC. Parent’s Perception of Fall Risk and Incidence of Falls in the Pediatric Ambulatory Environment. March 31, 2021, 1200-1300.
  • Nursing Grand Rounds: Sheranda Fesler, PhD, RNC-NIC, NE-BC, CPHQ, CPPS scheduled June 16, 2021, 1200-1300
  • Nursing Grand Rounds: Darlene Acorda, PhD, RN, CPNP-PC, scheduled September 15, 2021, 1200-1300
  • Visiting Scholar Nursing Grand Rounds: Rita Pickler, PhD, RN, FAAN. Scheduled October 14, 2021 at 1200-1300.
  • Nursing Grand Rounds: Sara Dean, DNP, APRN, RNFA, WHNP-BC, Behavioral Health Screening in Pregnancy: Analysis of a Multi-Phase Quality Improvement Initiative, scheduled November 17, 2021, 1200-1300.

Request for Project

Project consideration for non-students require confirmation of an affiliation agreement, review from nurse scientists, mentor and approval of the hosting department leader. Click here to learn more.