Karen Distelhorst, PhD, APRN, GCNS-BC, is a nurse scientist in the Cleveland Clinic’s Office of Nursing Research and Innovation.  Dr. Distelhorst has extensive clinical experience as a Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist in home health care, ambulatory care, and inpatient care areas. She has served as an assistant professor and adjunct faculty for both graduate and undergraduate programs at Malone University and the University of Akron. She also co-led a cross cultural nursing student exchange program, traveling to University College Lillebaelt, Dept. of Nursing, Odense, Denmark in 2012.

As a nurse researcher, Dr. Distelhorst’s area of interest is population health. Her dissertation, Transitional Care, Neighborhood Disadvantage, and Heart Failure Hospital Readmission: A moderated mediation analysis, was an extension of previous research on food insecurity, health care utilization, and hospital readmission.

Research Interests

The impact of nursing care coordination and transitional management (CCTM) on individual and population level outcomes; Assessment of upstream factors in population health nursing practice; Social determinants of health and neighborhood disadvantage; Food insecurity across the lifespan.


  • PhD, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, 2020
  • M.S.N., The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, 1993
  • Diploma, Idabelle Firestone School of Nursing, Akron City Hospital, Akron, Ohio, 1985


  • Board Certified Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist (GCNS-BC), American Nurses Credentialing Center

Contact Information

Cleveland Clinic
Office of Nursing Research and Innovation
9500 Euclid Ave./T4
Cleveland, OH 44195



Dr. Distelhorst has developed and executed several notable nursing programs throughout her career. These include a dementia management program, geriatric in-home services program and a cross-cultural exchange program between Malone University and University College Lillebaelt in Odense, Denmark. Dr. Distelhorst has also collaborated with local community agencies for important population health initiatives at South Pointe Hospital, such as the Accountable Health Communities program and a medically tailored meal program for older adults being discharged from the hospital. In her role as a Clinical Nurse Specialist, she has mentored nurses in professional nursing practice and leadership through Shared Governance.

Clinical Practice & Teaching

Clinical Practice & Teaching

Clinical Practice

Dr. Distelhorst has over 25 years of experience as a Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist, with expertise in community health and medical-surgical nursing. She has worked in multidisciplinary teams providing comprehensive geriatric assessment in the home and outpatient clinic. She also provided consultation for geriatric nursing care for patients in the hospital and home health settings.


Dr. Distelhorst’s academic experience as an assistant professor of nursing and adjunct faculty includes instruction at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the areas of medical-surgical, community health, and geriatric nursing. She coordinated curriculum for junior and senior levels of the undergraduate program at Malone University. Dr. Distelhorst has developed and taught graduate-level online courses for advanced practice nursing role development and clinical nurse specialist practicum.

Research & Publications

Research & Publications

Dr. Distelhorst’s publications have included peer reviewed nursing journals, a book chapter, nursing simulation scenarios for a national publication company, and community newsletters. She has numerous poster and podium presentations at local, national, and international venues on topics related to heart failure follow-up care, cross-cultural nursing, and nursing shared governance.

2020 - Research and publications

Distelhorst, K. Transitional care, neighborhood disadvantage, and heart failure hospital readmissions: A moderated mediation analysis. Kent State University (January 2020-March 2020).

Distelhorst, K., Adams, K, Lopez, R., Tang, A. & Burchill, C. Health Care Utilization and Neighborhood Disadvantage in Vulnerable Patients with Food Insecurity. Cleveland Clinic Health System & Center for Populations Health Research. (July 2019-January 2020).

Distelhorst, K., Bena, J., Morrison, S. & Albert, N. (2020). Factors Associated with Pre- versus Post-Discharge Scheduling for Early Follow-up Appointments. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, doi: 10.1097/JCN.0000000000000685. Online ahead of print

2019 - Research and presentations

Distelhorst, K., Lybrook, T. & Shaikh, J. (2019, April). Effect of earplugs on quality of sleep in hospitalized patients. Podium and poster presentation, Annual Clinical Research Conference, Cleveland, OH.

Tai, H. & Distelhorst, K. (2019, May). Keeping No-Show and Admission Rates Low. Poster presentation at American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nurses Annual Conference, Palm Springs, CA.

2018 - Publications and Presentations

Distelhorst, K., Claussen, R., Dion, K., Bena, J., Morrison, S., Walker, D. Tai, H. & Albert, N. (2018). Factors Associated with Adherence to 14-day Office Appointments After Heart Failure Discharge.  Journal of Cardiac Failure, 24 (6).

Wyss, L. & Distelhorst, K. (2018, October). Putting Theory to the Test in Culturally Diverse Clinical Settings. Panel discussion, Annual Conference of the Transcultural Nursing Society, San Antonio, TX. [International].

2017 - Publications and Presentations

Simon, J., Vanderbilt, A. & Distelhorst, K. (2017). Geriatrics. In Modic, M. & Canfield, C (eds.). Navigating Your Hospital Stay: A guide written by expert nurses. Pennsauken, NJ: BookBaby.

Distelhorst, K. & Claussen, R. (2017, September). Factors Associated with Adherence to Early Follow-up Appointments in Heart Failure. Podium and poster presentation, Heart Failure Society of America Annual Scientific Meeting, Grapevine, Texas.

Albert, N. M. & Distelhorst, K. (2017, September). Association of Early Post-Discharge Visit after Heart Failure Admission and 30-day Post-Discharge Outcomes. Poster presentation, Heart Failure Society of America Annual Scientific Meeting, Grapevine, Texas.

Distelhorst, K. (2017, April). Factors Associated with Adherence and Scheduling of Early Follow-Up Appointments in Heart Failure. Podium and poster presentation, Annual Clinical Nursing Research Conference, Cleveland, OH

Professional Involvement

Professional Involvement

  • Member, Transcultural Nursing Society
  • Member, National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists
  • Member, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing; Member, Pi Chi Chapter; Past Faculty Advisor
Honors & Awards

Honors & Awards

  • Heart Failure Society of America Nursing Research Award, Runner up, September 2017
  • Nancy M. Albert Excellence in Nursing Research Award, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland OH, May 2017
  • Faculty Development Institute Grant, Geriatric Nursing Education Consortium, Washington, DC, October 2007
  • Development Fund Grant, Dementia Management Program, United Way of Summit County, Akron, OH, January 1998