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Opportunities, Challenges, and Locus of Control in Undergraduate Research in Healthcare Settings

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Industrial Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Industrial Engineering

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Paper Authors


Laura E Moody Mercer University

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Dr. Laura Moody is an associate professor and chair of Industrial Engineering at Mercer University. Dr. Moody taught for 12 years in Mercer’s School of Engineering before leaving Mercer to spend 2 years as the manager of the North American Usability Group for Whirlpool Corporation. She returned to Mercer in 2003 and has served on the faculty of the Industrial Engineering and Industrial Management department ever since. At Mercer, she’s taught a variety of courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels. At Whirlpool, in addition to managing the usability group and conducting user research, she participated in a variety of global innovation efforts and worked with colleagues in a variety of fields in the US, Europe, Latin America, and Asia to promote customer-centered design. Her primary research and teaching interests are in ergonomics and human-machine systems design. She has conducted independent research investigating the link between usability and desirability in product design, worked with ARINC Engineering Services, LLC to provide human-systems integration support on a variety of projects for the US Navy, and has more recently been directing student teams on a number of projects with Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta and Disability Connections in Macon. Dr. Moody served as chair of the Industrial Engineering and Industrial Management Department from July 2008 until June 2011.

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Joan Burtner Mercer University

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Recent initiatives are causing healthcare facilities to sharpen their focus on efforts to improve the quality of healthcare delivery. As a result, administrators and key clinical personnel are exposed to the philosophy and key concepts, but not necessarily to the systems thinking that underlies the approach. Industrial Engineers can bring to the table concepts and methods to support and improve efficiency, standardization, human centered design, and systems thinking. However, the dominant culture in healthcare, which tends to be compartmentalized and individualistic, often works in conflict with the systems thinking that can facilitate improvement. The new approach to improving the quality of healthcare is gaining momentum and Industrial Engineers have an opportunity to be a guiding force in that change. As Industrial Engineering faculty members, the authors believe this culture change presents great opportunities and great challenges for undergraduate engineering students. For the past 20 years, we have been involved in a variety of applied research projects involving Industrial Engineering undergraduates and healthcare facilities, primarily hospitals and affiliated clinics. This paper will examine the experiences and observations of the authors as we have watched the healthcare industry evolve over the past 15+ years. We will discuss Industrial Engineering methodologies that our students have used to positively influence healthcare outcomes. We will also focus on some of the more concrete challenges involved in facilitating undergraduate research experiences in healthcare settings. These include, among others, changing Human Resource requirements, access to data, and personnel issues such as finding the right sponsor for a project and insuring the students have both administrative and clinical/operational staff support.

Moody, L. E., & Burtner, J. (2016, June), Opportunities, Challenges, and Locus of Control in Undergraduate Research in Healthcare Settings Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25837

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