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Eleanor S. McConnell, PhD, MSN, RN, GCNS, BC

Associate Professor
(919) 286-6932, (919) 684-9229
3053 Pearson Building

Dr. McConnell is Director of the Center of Excellence in Geriatric Nursing Education (CoE-GNE) and Lead Faculty for the gerontology specialties (Adult NP-Gerontology and Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist) in the MSN Program. She has a joint appointment at the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where she is both clinical nurse specialist and nurse scientist. Dr. McConnell is also a Senior Fellow at the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development.

She earned her Master's in Nursing at Duke University and her PhD in Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. McConnell's academic interests include frailty in the aged, the role of the physical environment in promoting function, and implementation of evidence-based practices in care of older adults.
Her research identifies factors that influence functional decline in very frail older adults, with a particular interest in improving care for older adults with cognitive impairment.

Dr. McConnell received a Fulbright Specialists grant in public and global health for an educational partnership with the University of the West Indies (UWI) School of Nursing in Mona, Jamaica. As a Fulbright Senior Specialist, McConnell is assisting with faculty and curriculum development and refinement of clinical nurse specialist (CNS) and nurse practitioner (NP) geriatric advanced practice nursing programs at UWI-Mona. She is also providing consultation on clinical practice sites.

Academic Program Affiliations

  • PhD in Nursing Program
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice Program
  • Master of Science in Nursing Program


  • PhD - University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Nursing
  • MSN - Duke University School of Nursing
  • BSN - Duke University School of Nursing

Research Interests

Dr. McConnell's research interests include frailty in the aged, the role of the physical environment in promoting function, and the conduct and testing of interventions to prevent decline in those with chronic illness. Her current program of research focuses on factors that influence implementation of evidence-based care practices to prevent functional decline in very frail older adults.

Awards and Honors

  • 2014 || Selected participant, Geriatric Nursing Leadership Academy (GNLA) Cohort IV, Geriatric Nursing Leadership Academy
  • 2013 || Distinguished Alumna Award, Duke University School of Nursing
  • 2010 || Fulbright Senior Specialist Grantee
  • 2007 || Congressional Medallion, Distinguished Practitioner in Nursing
  • 2007 || Ewald W. Busse Award, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Division on Aging and Adult Services
  • 2007 || Inducted, National Academy of Practice in Nursing
  • 2000 || Administrator’s Award for Excellence in Advanced Practice Nursing, Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center
  • 1996 || Outstanding Dissertation Award, Sigma Theta Tau, Alpha Alpha Chapter, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 1991 || National Research Service Award: Pre-Doctoral Study, National Institute for Nursing Research, National Institutes of Health
  • 1990 || Merit Assistantship, Graduate School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 1985 || Gerontological Nurse of the Year Award, North Carolina Nurses Association
  • 1976 || Sidney Aaronson Award (Scholastic Achievement), Duke University School of Nursing
  • 1975 || Inducted, Sigma Theta Tau, International Honor Society of Nursing

Areas of Expertise

  • Gerontology
  • Translational Research

Areas of Interest

• Interprofessional education
• Care of older adults with cognitive impairment
• Diffusion of Innovation

Representative Publications

  • 2015 -- Corazzini, K. N. and Vogelsmeier, A. and McConnell, E. S. and Day, L. and Kennerly, S. and Mueller, C. and Flanagan, J. T. and Hawkins, K. and Anderson, R. A. Perceptions of nursing practice: capacity for high-quality nursing home care Journal of Nursing Regulation. October, 2015 6(3); 17-24
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 24451896 Corazzini, K. and Twersky, J. and White, H. K. and Buhr, G. T. and McConnell, E. S. and Weiner, M. and Colón-Emeric, C. S. Implementing Culture Change in Nursing Homes: An Adaptive Leadership Framework. Gerontologist. August, 2015 55(4); 616-27 PMC4542586
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 26185155 Karel, M. J. and Teri, L. and McConnell, E. and Visnic, S. and Karlin, B. E. Effectiveness of Expanded Implementation of STAR-VA for Managing Dementia-Related Behaviors Among Veterans. Gerontologist. July, 2015
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25800276 Lee, K. H. and McConnell, E. S. and Knafl, G. J. and Algase, D. L. Pain and psychological well-being among people with dementia in long-term care. Pain Med. June, 2015 16(6); 1083-9 PMC4478238
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25647829 Anderson, R. A. and Bailey Jr, D. E. and Wu, B. and Corazzini, K. and McConnell, E. S. and Thygeson, N. M. and Docherty, S. L. Adaptive leadership framework for chronic illness: framing a research agenda for transforming care delivery. ANS Adv Nurs Sci. April-June, 2015 38(2); 83-95 PMC4417005
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25856452 De Gagne, J. C. and Park, S. and So, A. and Wu, B. and Palmer, M. H. and McConnell, E. S. A urinary incontinence continuing education online course for community health nurses in South Korea. J Contin Educ Nurs. April, 2015 46(4); 171-8
  • 2015 -- De Gagne, J. C. and So, A. and Wu, B. and Palmer, M. H. and McConnell, E. S. The effect of a urinary incontinence self-management program for older women in South Korea: A pilot study International Journal of Nursing Sciences. March, 2015 2(1); 39-46
  • 2014 -- PubMed # : 25237882 McConnell, E. S. Improving dementia care through behavioral interventions. N C Med J. September/October, 2014 75(5); 355-8
  • 2014 -- Day, L. and Turner, K. and Anderson, R. A. and Mueller, C. and McConnell, E. S. and Corazzini, K. N. Teaching Delegation to RN Students. Journal of Nursing Regulation. July, 2014 5(2); 10-15
  • 2014 -- PubMed # : 24802165 Pavon, J. M. and Zhao, Y. and McConnell, E. and Hastings, S. N. Identifying risk of readmission in hospitalized elderly adults through inpatient medication exposure. J Am Geriatr Soc. June, 2014 62(6); 1116-21


Grant Funding (Selected)

  • Implementing a Home Safety Toolkit for Veterans with Dementia

    VA Quality Enhancement Research Initiative
    VA QUERI- Number SDP 13-216
    09/2013 to 09/2016
    Role: Site PI

    Project Goals: The purpose of this project is to study the processes necessary to make a Home Safety Toolkit (HST) for Veterans with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type or a related disorder accessible to these patients and their caregivers; and to gather additional information about the effectiveness of the HST intervention when implemented in Veteran Health Administration (VHA) clinics. The project is a Type 3 Implementation –Effectiveness Hybrid Research Design.

  • Cognitive Impairment in Low Vision Rehabilitation: Prevalence and Consequences

    VA Rehabilitation Research & Development
    1 I21 RX001721-01
    05/2015 to 04/2017
    Role: Co-Investigator

    Project Goals: The objective of this pilot study is to characterize the prevalence and consequences of cognitive impairment among Veterans receiving inter-disciplinary, outpatient low vision rehabilitation (LVR). This is a necessary first step toward future intervention and implementation research aimed at improving outcomes for Veterans with dual vision and cognitive impairments.

  • Implementing a Deliberate Practice Approach to Support Adaptive Dementia Care: A Comparison study between the U.S. and China

    DUSON Office of Research Affairs International Research Award
    12/2014 to 12/2016
    Role: Principal Investigator

    Purpose: This study examines the feasibility of using deliberate practice to teach adaptive cueing for dementia care to master trainers in both the US and China, as a strategy for large-scale workforce development in dementia care. The study is a critical step in preparation for an international PCORI application that will compare an adaptive leadership approach to basic dementia skills implementation to the deployment of task-specific workers (technical approach) in reducing neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia during basic care.

  • Evidence Based Practice in Geriatric Care: A Grand Challenge Approach

    Health Resources and Service Administration
    09/2003 to 06/2015
    Role: Principal Investigator

    Project goal: To engage registered nurses (RNs) across the spectrum of elder care from five targeted communities in North Carolina (NC) in an in-depth Continuing Education (CE) Institute. Participating RNs will acquire geriatric clinical and leadership skills needed to implement significant evidence-based solutions to improve health outcomes among older adults in each community.

  • Adaptive Leadership for Person-Directed Care in Nursing Homes

    Duke-RTI FLARE Seed Fund
    03/2015 to 02/2016
    Role: Co-investigator

    Purpose: This new alliance between Duke and RTI launches an innovative program of research with the aim of a project to develop a theoretical and an operational framework for person-directed assessment and care planning, which will be amenable to intervention development for future studies.

  • IPA Markedia Mason

    Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center
    05/2014 to 04/2016
  • IPA Kyung Hee Lee

    Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center
    04/2014 to 07/2014
  • IPA, Markedia Mason

    Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center
    07/2013 to 09/2013
  • IPA- Kyung Hee Lee

    Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center
    07/2013 to 09/2013
  • Regulating Licensed Nursing Practice in Nursing Homes: Enacted RN and LPN Scopes of Practice and Care Outcomes

    National Council of State Boards of Nursing
    01/2013 to 12/2014
    Role: Co-investigator

    Project Goals: To identify the set of behaviors and strategies that RN Directors of Nursing (DONs) in nursing homes and their licensed nursing staff can use to enact their full scope of practice to improve quality of care, accounting for between state differences in Nurse Practice Acts (NPAs).


Thursday, April 6, 2017

PhD students Jing Wang and Hanzhang Xu along with Eleanor McConnell recently presented on "Community Care of Frail Elders in Cross Cultural Settings: A team-based approach" at the Strategies to Strenghten Health Systems Globally: A Duke Showcase event. Kirsten Corazzini also worked with the team on building the presentation.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Melissa Batchelor-Murphy, Eleanor McConnell, Susan Silva, and Angel Barnes recently published an article entitled "Experimental Comparison of Efficacy for Three Handfeeding Techniques in Dementia" in t

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Eleanor McConnell was recently to be a member of the newly created North Carolina Alzheimer's Coalition. This coalition was created in response to Recommendation 3.4 of the State Plan directing the Division of Aging and Adult Services to establish statewide coordinated leadership to oversee the State Plan on Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

The coalition will meet three times per year and is charged with the following responsibilities:

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

More than 14 faculty, staff and PhD students presented at the 2016 Gerontological Society of American (GSA) Annual Scientific Meeting in New Orleans, LA. According to GSA, more than 3,600 international experts attended thr premier gathering of gerontologists from both the United States and around the world. Attendees participated in over 450 scientific sessions including symposia, paper and poster presentations.

The following faculty, staff and PhD students presented at the conference:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Katherine "Kathy" Pereira, Nancy Short and Ellie McConnell co-author an article entitled "Mega Teaching Health Centers: A New Model to Power CHCs" with the Health Affairs Blog. Other co-authors include Richard Rieselbach, Peter Shin, Greg Nycz, and Kenneth Schmader.

Click here to read article.

Friday, September 16, 2016

More than 12 faculty and staff members, and several PhD alumni and students presented at the 2016 State of the Science Congress on Nursing Research presented by the Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science (CANS) in Washington, D.C. This year's event focused on Determinants of Health and their implications for nursing science and health policy.

The following faculty, staff and PhD alumni and students presented at the conference:

Friday, August 12, 2016

Eleanor McConnell recently presented on "Implementing and Sustaining STAR-VA in Veterans Health Administration Community Living Center" at the American Psychological Association Symposium in Denver. The symposium was entitled "Evidence-based Care for Individuals With Dementia and Family Caregivers."

Friday, July 22, 2016

Cristina Hendrix and Eleanor McConnell provided training for Durham VAMC nurses who participated as learners in the Fundamental in Geriatric Nursing Education sponsored by the Durham Elder Care in Hospital (ECHo) program.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Eleanor McConnell co-authored an article entitled "Improving Management of Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia in Acute Care: Evidence and Lessons Learned From Across the Care Spectrum" in the Nursing Administration Quarterly. The other co-author is Michele Karel, PhD, APBB, psychogeriatrics coordinator with Mental Health Services with the VA Central Office.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The month of May isn’t just about recognizing mothers and nurses. It is also designated as Older Americans Month. This is a time to acknowledge the perennial contributions of older adults to our nation. This year’s theme is “Blaze a Trail,” which hopes to raise awareness on important issues facing older adults such as civic engagement, finances and wellness.