Nurses: how can practicing nurses get involved in research?
Blog post by InspireNet Leadership Council member, Sabrina Wong
Nurses make up one of the largest parts of the healthcare workforce across BC, nationally, and internationally. They deliver a wide range of health services ranging from intensive care to ambulatory care, primary care, public health, and palliative care. However, they have had less influence on what services are delivered or how those services are delivered. In part, nurses have been largely absent from participating in the generation of new knowledge in the area of health service delivery. Practicing nurses have a lot to offer in the generation of new health service delivery knowledge. What you might consider “old hat” or “nothing new” could indeed be novel or innovative.
A colleague from medicine once told me, “If you want to know what are going to be the hot topics in research five years from now, just look in the nursing literature.” I thought he was just trying to butter me up because I had just started as a project manager on this new team - of 3 family practice physicians, 1 doctorally prepared educator, and me-a newly minted doctorally prepared nurse. As the year went by and we continued to work together on this research project about provider-patient communication, it became apparent that his comment to me was genuine. Practicing nurses know how important trust, empathy and active listening, and respect are to their relationships with patients. In fact, most nursing programs specifically train students in the area of communication as part of our basic foundation. Yet, in the early 2000’s we were completing a research study using innovative methods that provided evidence for the relationship between provider-patient communication and shared decision-making. In addition to the published paper, two outcomes of that study were that: 1) the physicians involved in the study changed their practice such that they paid more attention to their communication with patients; they tried to ensure decision-making was shared and 2) there was increased emphasis on communication in training residents.
This is just one story of many to illustrate the fact that practicing nurses have a lot of expertise that can inform research. Practice and delivery of health services is, in part, driven by research. Practicing nurses should be engaged in influencing research and developing the evidence that will change practice and service delivery. Your voice is important. Five different ways (in no particular order) you can get involved:
-Need to actively participate: welcome researchers into your workplace, help them problem-solve how to recruit participants, ask for presentations, and help them interpret the data they collect (e.g. do their results make sense to you?). Join an electronic community of practice - see if there are any of the Inspirenet e-communities that interest you.
-Ubiquitous laughter and smiles: get involved in something that you are passionate about. Being involved in research does not satisfy the (sometimes) instant gratification we can obtain from providing care to ill patients. However, research can change practice or influence policy and your expertise in practice can influence research. The InspireNet members database is available here. Positive relationships and experiences where the work seems (mostly) fun and is filled with laughter will keep you coming back for more.
-Record: get a notebook (electronic or otherwise) and start keeping notes of your fabulous ideas and questions. Think about what interests you and start writing down your thoughts, observations, and reflections about the nature of the topic. Take your ideas and meet with a researcher (clinician, epidemiologist, social science researcher) over coffee. You could also take your ideas and share them in the ‘virtual’ environment.
-Speak up: Let your nurse manager know you are interested in getting involved in research and talk to the Nursing Research Facilitator (call or email them, they would love to hear from you) in your health authority about your interest in getting involved in research. There may be opportunities to be involved in ongoing research.
-Everyone counts: Be open to working on a research project. Ask your nurse manager for some dedicated time to spend on the research. Look up faculty of nursing research profiles at one of the “research-intensive” universities such as University of British Columbia-Vancouver or Okanagan campus, University of Northern British Columbia, University of Victoria, Trinity Western University. Once you find someone who is a match with your interests, contact them (leave a message or email). You have exciting ideas and your enthusiasm will be infectious.
Sabrina Wong, RN(c), PhD
UBC School of Nursing and Centre for Health Services and Policy Research
6190 Agronomy Road, #302
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3
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