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Paula Tanabe, PhD, MSN, MPH, RN, FAEN, FAAN

Professor in the School of Nursing
(919) 613-6038
3132 Pearson Building

Paula Tanabe, PhD, RN, MPH, FAEN, FAAN, is an Associate Professor in the Schools of Nursing and Medicine and health services and clinical researcher. Dr. Tanabe’s program of research focuses on improving systems of healthcare and patient outcomes for persons with sickle cell disease. Dr. Tanabe has a strong focus on improving emergency department care for this population and has conducted many investigations in this area. Dr. Tanabe currently has AHRQ funding to disseminate decision support tools to primary care and emergency department providers throughout North Carolina and portions of South Carolina. These tools were based upon the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute evidence-based recommendations for the treatment of sickle cell disease. Dr. Tanabe is also the co-PI for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute “Sickle Cell Disease Implementation Consortium, U01”. The consortium includes eight centers from across the United States. Each center will conduct a comprehensive assessment of barriers to care and enroll 300 patients in a registry and randomized controlled trial. She was previously assistant director of a T32 post-doctoral fellowship in health services research at Northwestern University. Her methodological expertise includes prospective multi-site trials, survey methods, qualitative research, quality improvement and learning collaboratives, and retrospective structured medical record reviews. Dr. Tanabe is a member of the Emergency Severity Index (ESI) Triage Research Team that develops educational tools to treat ED providers on the use of ESI.

Academic Program Affiliations

  • PhD in Nursing Program


  • MPH - Northwestern University
  • PhD - University of Illinois at Chicago
  • MSN - Loyola University, Chicago
  • BS - Rush University

Research Interests

Dr. Tanabe has conducted investigations aimed at improving pain management in the emergency department, with a strong focus on patients with sickle cell disease. Dr. Tanabe developed the Emergency Department Sickle Cell Assessment of Needs and Strengths (ED-SCANS), a decision support tool aimed at improving the quality of care provided to adults with sickle cell disease in the ED setting.

Awards and Honors

  • 2017 || Outstanding PhD Faculty Award, Duke University School of Nursing
  • 2015 || 2015 Health Care Hero in Nursing, Triangle Business Journal
  • 2013 || Selected participant, Chancellor’s Clinical Leadership in Academic Medicine Program (CCHAMP), 2014 cohort, Duke Medicine Chancellor's Cabinet
  • 2012 || Fellow, American Academy of Nursing
  • 2012 || Fellow, Academy of Emergency Nursing, National Emergency Nurses Association
  • 2007 || Mayday Pain and Society Fellow – A Media and Policy Initiative, The Mayday Fund
  • 2007 || Outstanding Oral Research Presentation, Spring Symposium, Illinois College of Emergency Physicians
  • 2004 || Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, NRSA, nstitute for Health Services Research and Policy Studies, Dept Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
  • 2003 || Nursing Practice Award, National Emergency Nurses Association
  • 2002 || Resident Research Award, 1st place, Illinois College of Emergency Physicians Resident Academic Forum, Oak Brook, IL
  • 2002 || Nursing Researcher Award, National Emergency Nurses Association
  • 1997 || Research Facilitation Award, National Emergency Nurses Association
  • 1996 || Doctoral Scholarship, National Emergency Nurses Association
  • 1992 || Nursing Educator Award, Sigma Theta Tau, Gamma Phi Chapter
  • 1987 || Inducted, Sigma Theta Tau

Areas of Expertise

  • Acute / Critical Care
  • Chronic Illness
  • Health Disparities
  • Research Methods

Areas of Interest

• Health services research
• Emergency department pain management
• Sickle cell disease
• Triage systems
• Pain management

Representative Publications

  • 2017 -- PubMed # : 28334590 Tanabe, P. and Freiermuth, C. E. and Cline, D. M. and Silva, S. A Prospective Emergency Department Quality Improvement Project to Improve the Treatment of Vaso-Occlusive Crisis in Sickle Cell Disease: Lessons Learned. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 43(3); 116-126
  • 2017 -- PubMed # : 27482992 Freiermuth, C. E. and Silva, S. and Cline, D. M. and Tanabe, P. Shift in Emergency Department Provider Attitudes Toward Patients With Sickle Cell Disease. Adv Emerg Nurs J. 38(3); 199-212
  • 2016 -- PubMed # : 26596876 Williams, H. and Tanabe, P. Sickle Cell Disease: A Review of Nonpharmacological Approaches for Pain. J Pain Symptom Manage. 51(2); 163-77 PMC4733641
  • 2015 -- Zuzul, M. A. and Tanabe, P. and Blok, R. and Snyder, K. Improving preoperative cardiac assessment efficiency by using the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Guidelines: A quality improvement project Clinical Scholars Review. October, 2015 8(2); 164-171
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25673578 Williams, H. and Simmons, L. A. and Tanabe, P. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Advanced Nursing Practice: A Nonpharmacologic Approach to Health Promotion, Chronic Disease Management, and Symptom Control. J Holist Nurs. September, 2015 33(3); 247-59 PMC4532647
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25639238 Savage, W. J. and Buchanan, G. R. and Yawn, B. P. and Afenyi-Annan, A. N. and Ballas, S. K. and Goldsmith, J. C. and Hassell, K. L. and James, A. H. and John-Sowah, J. and Jordan, L. and Lottenberg, R. and Murad, M. H. and Ortiz, E. and Tanabe, P. J. and Ware, R. E. and Lanzkron, S. M. Evidence gaps in the management of sickle cell disease: A summary of needed research. Am J Hematol. April, 2015 90(4); 273-5
  • 2014 -- PubMed # : 25356894 Freiermuth, C. E. and Haywood Jr, C. and Silva, S. and Cline, D. M. and Kayle, M. and Sullivan, D. and Thornton, V. and Tanabe, P. Attitudes toward patients with sickle cell disease in a multicenter sample of emergency department providers. Adv Emerg Nurs J. Oct-Dec, 2014 36(4); 335-47
  • 2014 -- PubMed # : 25203083 Yawn, B. P. and Buchanan, G. R. and Afenyi-Annan, A. N. and Ballas, S. K. and Hassell, K. L. and James, A. H. and Jordan, L. and Lanzkron, S. M. and Lottenberg, R. and Savage, W. J. and Tanabe, P. J. and Ware, R. E. and Murad, M. H. and Goldsmith, J. C. and Ortiz, E. and Fulwood, R. and Horton, A. and John-Sowah, J. Management of sickle cell disease: summary of the 2014 evidence-based report by expert panel members. JAMA. September, 2014 312(10); 1033-48
  • 2014 -- PubMed # : 25241635 Tanabe, P. and Martinovich, Z. and Buckley, B. and Schmelzer, A. and Paice, J. A. Safety of an ED High-Dose Opioid Protocol for Sickle Cell Disease Pain. J Emerg Nurs. September, 2014 36(4); 335-47
  • 2014 -- PubMed # : 25035751 Thornton, V. L. and Holl, J. L. and Cline, D. M. and Freiermuth, C. E. and Sullivan, D. T. and Tanabe, P. Application of a proactive risk analysis to emergency department sickle cell care. West J Emerg Med. July, 2014 15(4); 446-58


Grant Funding (Selected)

  • Disseminating NIH Evidence Based Sickle Cell Recommendations in North Carolina

    Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
    R18 RHS024501A
    09/2016 to 08/2020

    In 2014, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute published evidence based guidelines for the treatment of sickle cell disease. In this project the team will disseminate a toolbox of decision support tools based upon the
    recommendations to primary care physicians and ED providers in North Carolina. A new model of care will be implemented that supports co-management between primary care and SCD specialists, with care coordination to include the ED.

  • Eliminating Suffering for Sickle Cell Disease Patients

    Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, awarded to Georgia Medical Care Foundation, an Alliant Company
    Special Innovation Project
    09/2016 to 08/2018
    Role: Consultant

    The purpose of this project is to conduct a national learning collaborative with emergency departments across the United States. The goal is for participating centers to improve emergency department care for individuals with sickle cell disease.

  • Improving SCD Care using Web-based Guidelines, Nurse Care Managers and Peer Mentors in Primary Care and Emergency Departments in Central North Carolina

    08/2016 to 06/2022
    Role: Co-PI

    Sickle cell disease is a complex medial illness associated with many acute and chronic complications which would benefit from co-management between primary care physicians, sickle cell experts, and emergency
    departments. We will provide web based decision aids to providers, nurse care managers and patient/peer coaches to improve outcomes for individuals with sickle cell disease. We aim to improve patient outcomes as well as shift healthcare use from emergency departments and specialty care only, to primary and specialty care. We will also conduct a community needs assessment and participate in the NHLBI registry associated with the project.

  • A Mindfulness-based Intervention For Pain Catastrophizing In Sickle Cell Disease

    National Institutes of Health
    09/2014 to 08/2017

    This project will be the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) of mindfulness-based stress reduction to reduce pain catastrophizing, and improve quality of life for sickle cell disease patients with chronic pain.

  • Comparing Acute Pain Management Protocols for Patients with Sickle Cell Disease

    National Institutes of Health
    09/2014 to 06/2016
  • Using Web-Based Technology to Improve Knowledge of Sickle Cell Disease for Emergency Department Providers

    Duke University SON CONCEPT Office CATALYST Award
    06/2014 to 05/2015
    Role: PI

    Project Goal: We will to conduct a formal evaluation of the website, and develop four new learning modules. As we build new modules, we will significantly increase the interactivity and use of technology to engage the learner.

  • Improving Healthcare for Individuals and Families Living with Sickle Cell Disease

    National Institutes of Health
    04/2014 to 03/2015
    Role: PI
  • Improving the management of persons with sickle cell disease in the emergency department setting

    North Carolina Community of Care Network, Inc.
    02/2014 to 02/2015
  • Improving Emergency Department Management of Adults with Sickle Cell Disease

    Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
    09/2011 to 07/2014

    This researching implementation and change while improving quality project will redesign the process of emergency department (ED) management for adults with sickle cell disease (SCD). The project will use the Failure Modes, Effects, and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) to identify the vulnerabilities, risks, and weak points (failures) in the systems and processes involved in using the Emergency Department Sickle Cell Assessment of Needs and Strengths (ED-SCANS), a decision support tool developed to improve the quality of care for adults with SCD. The root causes of each failure will be identified, then redesigned. The aims for the proposed project are to: (1) conduct a proactive risk assessment, FMECA of the workflow and operational systems and processes involved in four key decisions of the ED-SCANS regarding evaluation and management of SCD patients; (2) develop and implement standardized processes and interventions for each of the four decisions of the ED-SCANS; (3) conduct a formal program evaluation of the quality improvement implementation at each site; and (4) develop a toolbox for dissemination and implementation of effective systems and processes to support use of the ED-SCANS in EDs at additional low-resource US hospitals.

  • Region 4 Heritable Disorders - Hemoglobinopathies

    Michigan Public Health Institute
    07/2011 to 05/2012


Friday, April 20, 2018

Paula Tanabe recently conducted the following presentations: 

"Bridging Population Health Science and Management Panel," Panel Member at the Population Health Symposium, Duke University. 

"Sickle Cell in the Emergency Department: A Fresh Perspective and New Opportunities," at the New York State Setting the Pace Emergency Nurses Conference in New York.

"Vaso-occulusive Episodes in the Emergency Department: Pain Assessment, Treatment, Disposition and Referral," at the UNC-CH Emergency Medicine Residents Conference in Chapel Hill, NC.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Paula Tanabe was recently appointed a standing study section member for the "National Institutes of Health: NHLBI Mentored Clinical and Basic Science Study Section" grant.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

PhD student Dominique Bulgin and Paula Tanabe recently published an article entitled "Stigma of Sickle Cell Disease: A Systematic Review" in Issues in Mental Health Nursing. Co-authors include experts from UNC-Chapel Hill. 


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

“Bridging Population Health at Duke” was the title of the inaugural Population Health Symposium spearheaded by Health Affairs Chancellor Eugene Washington. Keynote speaker Clay Johnston, dean of the new Dell School of Medicine at the University of Texas at Austin, kicked off the event. Paula Tanabe, discussing her Sickle Cell Disease research, was among a panel of speakers sharing approaches to “Bridging (Population Health) Management and Science.” Donna Biederman served on the event planning group that began coordinating the event nearly a year prior.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

PhD student Dominique Bulgin and Paula Tanabe recently published an article entitled "Twelve tips for teaching a comprehensive disease-focused course with a global perspective: A sickle cell disease example" in Medical Teacher. Co-authors include experts from Duke University and The University of the West Indies.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Paula Tanabe recently conducted a number of webinars. The first entitled "Comparing Acute Pain Management Protocols for Patients with Sickle Cell Disease" for the Sickle Cell Quality Improvement Project Alliant Quality, funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. The second, a multi-part series entitled "Emergency Severity Index Learning Collaborative Sessions" for the Ministry of Health in Jamaica. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Paula Tanabe and Susan Silva recently published an article in The American Journal of Hematology entitled "A Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing Two Vaso-occlusive Episode (VOE) Protocols in Sickle Cell Disease (SCD)." Co authors include experts from Duke University School of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Feinberg School of Medicine,  Duke University Center for Health Services Research, and Durham VAMC.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Paula Tanabe was recently featured in an article entitled "'Every time it's a battle': In excruciating pain, sickle cell patients are shunted aside" published on the STAT News website.

Click here to read the full article.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Paula Tanabe recently presented at the SCDIC Meeting with the National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. Her presentation was entitled " Using the Emergency Department to Screen & Refer Individuals with SCD for Social Behavioral Health Needs." 

In addition, she presented on "Comparing Acute Pain Management Protocols for the Treatment of Vaso-ococclusive Crisis in Sickle Cell Disease." at Mt. Sinai Hospital Nursing Grand Rounds in New York City. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Congratulations to PhD student Dominque Bulgin and her mentor Paula Tanabe who have received an award for their NIH Fellowship proposal “Understanding the Intersection of Stigma and Self-Management in Sickle Cell Disease." This award is for a three-year period and was awarded for $116,208.