For Elaine Steinke, an interest in cardiovascular health may have started when her father had a heart attack when she was 6.
“I think in some respects … maybe a little seed was germinated at that point in time,” said Steinke, a professor in Wichita State University’s school of nursing.
Steinke was born and raised in the Wichita area. She graduated from the St. Francis School of Nursing in 1975 and received her bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Wichita State and her doctorate from Kansas State University.
Her area of research focuses mostly on intimacy counseling for patients with heart disease, and she works actively with patients and health care providers to provide education on the subject.
“Being a nurse and being an educator is every part of who and what I am,” Steinke said. “It just so happens my research area fell into the area of intimacy, and I think some of that is my stubbornness in wanting to make sure that people receive the information that they wish to have.”
Steinke is a fellow at the American Heart Association and was inducted as a fellow last fall for the American Academy of Nursing.
“When I began in my nursing career nearly 38 years ago, I could not imagine the path that my nursing career would take,” she said.
When she’s not researching or teaching, Steinke enjoys oil and watercolor painting, gardening and spending time with her four grandchildren.
Q. Now that you’re a professor and researcher, do you miss nursing?
A. That’s kind of a misconception. When people see me outside of a direct care role, they ask me, “Do you miss nursing?” I’m still a nurse through and through, but there are so many roles in nursing, not just a direct care role.
I began practicing by working in the intensive care unit in the hospital setting. I liked that setting because it’s very challenging and fast-paced, and when I’m there even now, I feel it’s really invigorating. When I’m in the acute care setting with my students, I really like that atmosphere. …
My passion for education began by working at the bedside and has continued on and fueled much of what I’ve done in my career.
Q. What do you think the future role of nurses will be?
A. I think nurses are poised to fill a gap in health care services. … Family nurse practitioners, for example, often practice in rural areas, and so there’s certainly a role for these advanced practice nurses to play a larger role in health care and meeting the needs of communities throughout our state and the region.
Q. What about the job prospects in nursing?
A. Nursing is just going to continue to grow and evolve. We are in a shortage of nurses, and I think the main idea that we want to get out there is that there is a shortage. …
As we see the economy change and loosen up a bit, I think as a result, the nursing shortage is going to deepen, so we have a critical need for individuals who are interested in nursing to pursue education to become a nurse.
Q. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your particular area of research?
A. It has been challenging, particularly in the early years. My doctoral research started in about 1986. Into the early ’90s, there were some barriers put up by other researchers in journals, and occasionally reviewers would say it’s not appropriate to talk about this topic. But that has changed, thankfully, and it’s increasingly recognized.
So I think that was a major barrier in getting people to understand that this is an important component of health and health promotion to discuss intimacy with not only heart disease but a variety of health care topics.
Q. Some day when you look back on your career, what is it that you want to see you’ve accomplished?
A. From time to time, one thinks of what legacy they would like to leave behind, and my hope is for well-educated patients and partners for which sexual counseling becomes a routine part of practice for nurses and other health care providers.