Heather Tubbs Cooley

Heather Tubbs Cooley
First Name
Last Name
Tubbs Cooley
Associate Professor
338 Newton Hall
Address (Line 2)
1585 Neil Avenue
Zip Code

Tubbs Cooley Lab

The nursing care that an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) receives influences a myriad of outcomes including risk of preventable harm, development of chronic conditions, and achievement of key developmental milestones prior to hospital discharge. Dr. Tubbs Cooley’s research focuses on understanding factors that both impede and enhance the quality and reliable delivery of core nursing care in the NICU and other pediatric settings, with a goal of redesigning systems to better support the critical work of front-line clinicians. By combining classical health services research approaches with emerging methods such as intensive longitudinal matching of data from nurses and patients and data visualization, Dr. Tubbs Cooley and her team are discovering new insights about patterns of nursing care delivery that impact neonatal outcomes.


Dr. Tubbs Cooley teaches in the undergraduate and PhD programs.


Engagement in clinical care, whether through practice or research, is a priority for Dr. Tubbs Cooley. Formerly a pediatric inpatient and private duty nurse, she remains connected to practice through her appointment as a Principal Investigator in the Center for Perinatal Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and as an affiliated nurse scientist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Through these appointments she routinely interacts with clinicians, administrators, patients, and families who inspire her to make health care better through science.


Enhancing reliable delivery of core nursing care in NICUs

Reliable delivery of high quality nursing care is essential for positive patient outcomes during and after hospitalization. Dr. Tubbs Cooley’s recent study, the Neonatal Nursing Care Quality Study, focused on evaluating relationships between nurse workload, missed nursing care, and adverse events in neonatal care. Her current project, Systems Analysis of Guideline Adherence in Neonatal Intensive Care, funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, takes a human factors approach to understand why NICU nurses have difficulty adhering to evidence-based patient safety guidelines. This work considers adherence as an indicator of nursing care reliability with a goal of identifying work system factors that can be modified to better support the complex work of nurses.

Pediatric healthcare reutilization

Dr. Tubbs Cooley’s research career began by studying the effect of nurse staffing ratios on 14- and 30-day hospital readmission in children. She continues to study pediatric healthcare utilization as a co-investigator on a Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute funded trial of nurse home visits and phone calls to reduce unplanned reutilization after routine pediatric discharge. Additionally, she is a co-investigator on a study funded by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to evaluate utilization outcomes of nurse telehealth triage in pediatric primary care.

Opportunities to Learn at Ohio State Nursing

Students at all levels with interest in health care quality and safety research are invited to apply to join the Tubbs Cooley lab. Students are integral study team members and will learn to develop research ideas, interact with participants, collect, manage, and analyze data, and disseminate knowledge through publications and presentations.

Dr. Tubbs Cooley mentors PhD students in an embedded model, where students are integrated into active projects to give maximum exposure to the research process. This model provides students with unique opportunities to construct dissertation research from larger studies that are funded by federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health. Prospective PhD students are strongly encouraged to discuss their research interests with Dr. Tubbs Cooley prior to program application.

View complete bibliography

Funded Research Grants
Degree Certifications
Professional Activities


August 05, 2020

The need for human touch is universal among critical care patients and is an important component of the nurse–patient relationship. However, multiple barriers to human touch exist in the critical care environment. With little research to guide practice, we argue for the importance of human touch in the provision of holistic nursing care.

July 20, 2020

The five-year, $3.13 million grant will deploy social-assistive robots at Ohio Living Westminster-Thurber and Chapel Hill Community in Canal Fulton near Canton for an eight-week trial. The study is aimed at curbing loneliness and apathy in older adults, especially for those with dementia.