Zamboanga 2023

Another group of nursing students from VSU College of Nursing (CoN) proved how their training in doing quality research is an edge as they bested the research competition at an international conference.

#ProudViscans Clariz Joy R. Dela Peña, Angela Marie M. Cumagun, and Justine Mark G. Rufila bagged 1st place in paper presentation under the student category during this year’s 4th Biennial International Conference on Nursing Education Practice and Research.

This two-day event ran from July 6 to 7, 2023, at the Palacio Del Sur, Marcian Garden Hotel, Zamboanga City, in collaboration with Universidad de Zamboanga, and was participated by nurse practitioners and nursing students around the country and abroad whose institutions are partners of the main organizer, the Nurse Educators and Practitioners (NEPra) Guild, Inc.

The winning paper of these #ProudViscans is about the effects of having pets on nursing students’ mental health and well-being during the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We made a research paper that was a common experience among everyone at the time of lockdown. Since all of us were home quarantined, most of our days are spent at home. Humans as social beings are new to this change, some were happy, others were devastated and lonely. Digging on research, studies have shown that isolation and loneliness are associated with higher risks for mental health problems such as depression, and cognitive decline. So we thought that other than human interaction at home we also have pets to accompany us, and this stretched our curiosity of how pets can impact the mental health, well-being, academic stress, self-esteem, coping self-efficacy, and emotion regulation of our fellow nursing students during the lockdown,” Dela Peña explained.

According to the result of their study using the quasi-experimental design, the comparison data between pet owners and non-pet owners reveals that those who have pets are more mentally healthy, better coped, and experience less stress than those who do not have pets.

“We compared the data of pet owners to non-pet owners and our results show that those who own pets have significantly reduced academic stress among students. Specifically, in Leyte, nursing students who owned pets were found to be mentally healthier, possess better coping skills, and experience less stress compared to those who did not own pets. Therefore, having a pet through particularly trying times has a positive impact on aspects of well-being and mental health,” she added.


Beaming with pride, their thesis adviser Associate Professor Dr. Janet Alexis De los Santos who at the same time is an outstanding health researcher herself revealed that her goal is to let her students experience joining events like this conference to widen their horizons.

“For me, learning should not be limited to what is taught in classrooms. I wanted to expose my students to these opportunities to meet and learn from people from different institutions, countries, and cultures to develop their research knowledge and personal interpersonal skills,” Assoc. Prof. Dr. De los Santos highlighted.

She congratulated her thesis advisees for winning the research competition, albeit not anticipating such a big achievement.

“As an adviser, my goal was only to let them experience it, but they gave us a bonus. I congratulate my advisees for this feat. They did an excellent job competing with other student researchers and winning first place,” the proud thesis adviser said.


Meanwhile, Dela Peña shared how she felt representing VSU in a grand event like this research conference and how worthwhile their experiences were as participants.

“The feeling was mostly exciting but as the event got closer I felt the pressure and the weight of expectations, let alone representing our university (VSU). Even though I was having setbacks, I did not lack in my preparation, and that was enough to boost my trust in myself and my team. During the day of the presentation, I was enthralled by how en grande the conference was, it was one of the best feelings I had. I got to meet prestigious individuals, nurses known for their research, PhDs, and international nurses who are dedicated to sharing the same goals in developing the healthcare system. As a student, I am privileged to participate in this event,” she recalled.

Cumagun on the other hand revealed that it was her first time joining a big conference and it was nostalgic. 

“[The experience was] an exciting one. It is my first time to present for an international conference which for some reason I am confident about since we are representing the College of Nursing and Visayas State University. Now, I always look back to that moment and wish to relive it,” Cumagun said.

As for Rufila, he was truly grateful for bagging the title and gave credit to his team’s efforts and his thesis adviser’s.

“We are thrilled and grateful for the recognition we have received at such [a] prestigious conference. Winning 1st palace in the Student Category is truly an honor, a testament to the hard work and dedication put into our research by my team, and of course, our thesis adviser, Dr. Janet Alexis De los Santos for believing in us,” he concluded.

The three of them are equally grateful for the support, dedication, and guidance of their thesis adviser because, without her, they could not achieve the winning title. They also extend their appreciation to their respective families and the NEPra Guild for the memorable experience.


Aside from the nursing students, a paper by Dr. Ciedelle Honey Lou Gapasin from the professional category is also recognized as promising ongoing research.

The event was themed “Nurses Together: A Force for Global Health” with four sub-themes which are Flexible Learning in Nursing Education, Community and Public Health Nursing, Health Technologies and Innovations in Nursing, and Quality Nursing and Patient Care.

The invited plenary speakers were from the Philippines, the United States of America, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the other two from Thailand.

NEPra Guild is a non-profit organization established by nurse educators from Hail, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bandung, Indonesia, and the Philippines with a mission of pursuing continuous and quality nursing education, research, and practice.

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