Susan Sullivan Bolyai headshot

Susan Sullivan Bolyai

Associate Professor

1 212 998 5300

433 First Avenue
Room 606
New York, NY 10010
United States

expand all

collapse all

Professional overview

For decades Dr. Sullivan-Bolyai has worked clinically with children who have special health care needs and their families on day-to-day management of the chronic condition. Since 1995 she has focused her research on preparation, education and support for families to help manage childrens’ care in the home and community settings. Her main areas of expertise are clinical interventions that address parent and child social support and education for Type 1 Diabetes day-to-day management, including the innovation of using a child-size human patient simulator for parent and child education.


1999-2002 - Postdoctoral, Intervention research fellowship, Yale University;
1999 - DNSc, Nursing Science Research, Yale University;
1981 - Postmasters, Chronic condition children/family, University Washington;
1978 - MN, Clinical nurse specialist, child/family, Emory University;
1976 - BSN, Nursing, Metropolitan State College

Honors and awards

American Academy Nursing Fellow; (2013)
Dean’s Award University of Massachusetts, Worcester; (2007)
Doctoral Faculty Award University of Massachusetts, Worcester; (2006)
Doctoral Faculty Award University of Massachusetts, Worcester; (2005)
Eastern Nursing Research Society Distinguished Contribution to Nursing Research Award-Junior Investigator; (2005)
Maternal Child Nursing Research Paper of the Year Award; (2003)
Sigma Theta Tau (1978)



Professional membership

American Nurses Association;
Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science;
International Family Nursing Association;
Massachusetts Association for Registered Nurses;
Sigma Theta Tau
Specialists in Pediatric Nursing



CDE Perspectives of Providing New-Onset Type 1 Diabetes Education Using Formal Vignettes and Simulation

Ramchandani, N., Johnson, K., Cullen, K., Hamm, T., Bisordi, J., & -Sullivan-Bolyai, S. (2017). Diabetes Educator, 43(1), 97-104. 10.1177/0145721716676893
Purpose: The purpose of this article is to describe the 4 Parent Education Through Simulation-Diabetes (PETS-D) nurse certified diabetes educators’ (CDEs) perspectives of teaching parents of children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) early diabetes management skills using formal vignettes and a human patient simulator/human patient simulation (HPS) to augment/enhance the teaching–learning process. Methods: A qualitative descriptive approach was used. Four CDEs were interviewed by phone about their teaching experiences. Meticulous notes were taken. Data were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Results: The vignettes (and use of HPS) provided structure, especially for parents who were struggling to learn. Certified diabetes educators described a short learning curve to master the use of the HPS manikin. Human patient simulation-enhanced education was described as helpful for teaching multiple caregivers about diabetes. Certified diabetes educators also described factors that affect parent learning, mechanical issues with the HPS, and additional space requirements for HPS-enhanced education. Conclusion: Vignettes and HPS-enhanced education can successfully be used to educate parents of children with new-onset T1DM and were preferred by the CDEs when compared with previous teaching strategies. The results of this study support the use of both vignette-based and HPS-enhanced education when a child is newly diagnosed with T1DM. Further studies need to be done to see if these effects persist with different populations, during different stages of the disease, and for individuals with other chronic illnesses.

Development and Psychometric Testing of a Measure to Evaluate Faculty Engagement With Underrepresented Minority Nursing Students

Moreau, P., -Sullivan-Bolyai, S., Ndiwane, A. N., & Jaffarian, C. A. (2017). Journal of Nursing Measurement, 25(2), 108-129. 10.1891/1061-3749.25.2.E108
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to develop a reliable and valid measure of faculty response patterns to the needs of underrepresented minority (URM) nursing students.METHODS: A mixed-method approach.RESULTS: The 10-item scale was found to be valid (content validity index [CVI] = .81) and reliable (Cronbach's alpha = .81). Principle component factor analysis with varimax rotation yielded a 3-factor solution that explained 66% of the variance in faculty engagement with URM students. The Cronbach's alpha for the 3 factors ranged from .72 to .78. Higher scores were associated with older faculty who had been teaching longer and had more experience teaching URM students.CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS: The results of the study provide preliminary evidence for the internal consistency and content, criterion-related, and construct validity of the scale.

Parents Caring For Adult Children With Serious Mental Illness

Raymond, K. Y., Willis, D. G., & -Sullivan-Bolyai, S. (2017). Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 23(2), 119-132. 10.1177/1078390316685404
BACKGROUND: Parents often become the caregivers for their adult children with serious mental illness (SMI) due to the chronic and debilitating course of the illness and shortages in funding for community mental health services and residential placements. OBJECTIVE: To examine parents’ management styles when caring for adult children with SMI and parents’ perspectives on what type of community-based mental health interventions would support and/or enhance overall family functioning. DESIGN: A qualitative descriptive study using semistructured interviews with parents caring for adult children with SMI. The study was undergirded by Knafl and Deatrick’s Family Management Style Framework. RESULTS: Four major themes emerged from the data describing prolonged and difficult phases that parents and the family undergo in caring for an adult child with SMI. CONCLUSIONS: Successful management of these phases must include increasing access to mental health information, mental health screening, early interventions, and violence prevention for adult children and their families.

Research Participation Decision-Making Among Youth and Parents of Youth With Chronic Health Conditions

Pagano-Therrien, J., & -Sullivan-Bolyai, S. (2017). Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 31(2), 167-177. 10.1016/j.pedhc.2016.07.002
The aims of this qualitative descriptive study were to describe how past experiences with research (including communication, information, values, and support) may contribute to research fatigue among youth and parents of youth with HIV, cystic fibrosis, and Type 1 diabetes. Eighteen parents and youth were purposively recruited from outpatient subspecialty clinics at a major academic medical center. They took part in qualitative interviews and completed a demographics form and the Decisional Conflict Scale. Youth participants also completed the Erikson Psychosocial Stage Inventory. Two major themes emerged: Blurred Lines and Hope for the Future. Research fatigue was not found in this sample. Results point to challenges with informed consent in settings where research and clinical care are integrated and suggest that protective factors allow for continued participation without excess burden on youth and parents. Strategies to minimize research fatigue and support engagement in research are offered.

Distinguishing Features and Similarities Between Descriptive Phenomenological and Qualitative Description Research

Willis, D. G., -Sullivan-Bolyai, S., Knafl, K., & Cohen, M. Z. (2016). Western Journal of Nursing Research, 38(9), 1185-1204. 10.1177/0193945916645499
Scholars who research phenomena of concern to the discipline of nursing are challenged with making wise choices about different qualitative research approaches. Ultimately, they want to choose an approach that is best suited to answer their research questions. Such choices are predicated on having made distinctions between qualitative methodology, methods, and analytic frames. In this article, we distinguish two qualitative research approaches widely used for descriptive studies: descriptive phenomenological and qualitative description. Providing a clear basis that highlights the distinguishing features and similarities between descriptive phenomenological and qualitative description research will help students and researchers make more informed choices in deciding upon the most appropriate methodology in qualitative research. We orient the reader to distinguishing features and similarities associated with each approach and the kinds of research questions descriptive phenomenological and qualitative description research address.

Feasibility of Parent-to-Parent Support in Recently Diagnosed Childhood Diabetes: The PLUS Study

Channon, S., Lowes, L., Gregory, J. W., Grey, L., & -Sullivan-Bolyai, S. (2016). Diabetes Educator, 42(4), 462-469. 10.1177/0145721716644673
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to develop and test the feasibility of a parent-to-parent support intervention for parents whose child has recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the United Kingdom. Methods: The research team conducted a formative evaluation, working with parents to design an individual-level parent-to-parent support intervention. Issues of recruitment, uptake, attrition, pattern of contact, and intervention acceptability were assessed. Results: A US program was adapted in collaboration with a parents’ advisory group. Of 19 parents nominated as potential mentors by their pediatric diabetes specialist nurses, 12 (63%) volunteered and 11 continued for the 12-month intervention period. Thirty-three children were diagnosed with diabetes in the study period, with 25 families eligible to participate as recipients of the intervention; 9 parents from 7 of those families participated, representing 28% of those eligible. Feedback from parents and clinic staff identified peer support as a welcome service. Lessons were learned about the nature of the supporting relationship (eg, proximity, connectedness, and managing endings) that will enhance the design of future peer support programs. Conclusions: Parent-to-parent support in the context of newly diagnosed childhood diabetes in the United Kingdom is feasible to deliver, with good engagement of mentors and clinic staff. The program was acceptable to parents who chose to participate, although uptake by parents whose child had been recently diagnosed was lower than expected. The results merit further investigation, including exploration of parent preference in relation to peer support.

Methodological challenges collecting parent phone-call healthcare utilization data

Moreau, P., Crawford, S., & -Sullivan-Bolyai, S. (2016). Applied Nursing Research, 29, 64-69. 10.1016/j.apnr.2015.05.006
Recommendations by the National Institute of Nursing Research and other groups have strongly encouraged nurses to pay greater attention to cost-effectiveness analysis when conducting research. Given the increasing prominence of translational science and comparative effective research, cost-effective analysis has become a basic tool in determining intervention value in research. Tracking phone-call communication (number of calls and context) with cross-checks between parents and healthcare providers is an example of this type of healthcare utilization data collection. This article identifies some methodological challenges that have emerged in the process of collecting this type of data in a randomized controlled trial: Parent education Through Simulation-Diabetes (PETS-D). We also describe ways in which those challenges have been addressed with comparison data results, and make recommendations for future research.

Parentsʼ Perspectives on “Keeping Their Children Safe” in the Hospital

Rosenberg, R. E., Rosenfeld, P., Williams, E., Silber, B., Schlucter, J., Deng, S., Geraghty, G., & -Sullivan-Bolyai, S. (2016). Journal of Nursing Care Quality. 10.1097/NCQ.0000000000000193
This study explored parentsʼ perspectives regarding their involvement in safety for their hospitalized children. We employed qualitative description and semistructured interviews of parents of children in an urban tertiary hospital ward. Content analysis revealed 4 parent themes: risks to child safety and comfort, hospital role as a protector, participation in safety varies by individual and organizational factors, and balancing safety with “speaking up” interpersonal risks. We suggest key concepts to incorporate into staff education and family engagement/safety programs to develop effective partnerships between clinicians and parents.

PREP-T1 (Preteen Re-Education With Parents–Type 1 Diabetes) Feasibility Intervention Results

-Sullivan-Bolyai, S., Crawford, S., Johnson, K., Ramchandani, N., Quinn, D., D’Alesandro, B., Stern, K., Lipman, T., Melkus, G., & Streisand, R. (2016). Journal of Family Nursing, 22(4), 579-605. 10.1177/1074840716676589
There has been a 2% to 3% increase in Type 1 diabetes (T1D) in children below 11 years old. Preteens (9-12 years old) with T1D are often overlooked regarding future diabetes self-management (DSM) expectations because parents are still in the “driver’s seat.” The study purpose was to explore feasibility/ability to recruit and conduct a two-arm trial on reeducation, collaboration, and social support. One component of DSM was reviewed (hypoglycemia) with preteens (n = 22) and parents (n = 22). The experimental preteens discussed hypoglycemia management with a teen mentor and nurse educator using a human patient simulator for practice, and working collaboratively with parents. Concurrently, mothers met with a parent mentor and psychologist to discuss growth and development, and collaborative shared management. Comparison dyads discussed hypoglycemia management with a nurse. Preteens slightly improved in diabetes knowledge; the experimental arm had higher problem-solving scores. Parents in the experimental arm had higher self-efficacy scores. Findings will inform future research.

Grandparent Education Through Simulation-Diabetes

Maguire, L. L., Crawford, S., & -Sullivan-Bolyai, S. (2015). Diabetes Educator, 41(6), 678-689. 10.1177/0145721715607982
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the feasibility of using human patient simulation (HPS) to teach type 1 diabetes (T1DM) management to grandparents of grandchildren with T1DM. Methods: Thirty grandparents (11 male, 19 female) of young grandchildren (aged 12 and under) with T1DM were recruited from an urban medical center. Experimental group (n = 14) grandparents received hands-on visual T1DM management education using an HPS intervention, and control group (n = 16) grandparents received similar education using a non-HPS intervention. Findings: This study demonstrated the feasibility of recruiting and retaining grandparents into a clinical trial using HPS to teach T1DM management. Post intervention, all grandparent scores for T1DM knowledge, confidence, and fear showed significant improvement from time 1 to time 2, with HPS group grandparent scores showing consistently larger improvement. Conclusions: The consistency of larger HPS-taught grandparent score improvement is suggestive of a benefit for the HPS teaching method. Early multimethod Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)–provided T1DM education is an important point of entry for inducting grandparent members onto the grandchild’s diabetes care team.