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Designing a sustainable research strategy

By: Stephanie A. Walton, MSN, RN, NPD-BC; Kara Sankey, MSN, CNL, RN; and Nichelle Jensen, DNP, APNP

A workshop helps frontline nurses pursue research interests.

By Stephanie A. Walton, MSN, RN, NPD-BC; Kara Sankey, MSN, CNL, RN; and Nichelle Jensen, DNP, APNP

Encouraging all levels of nursing to participate in research is an important component of establishing an inclusive research culture. Here’s how we built that culture at our organization.

How we began

designing sustainable research strategyOur health system, which crosses nine counties and two states, includes two community hospitals, two critical-access hospitals, and over 48 outpatient centers. The organization received its first Magnet® designation with a systemwide project to introduce research to all staff. For the next designation, we implemented a learning-by-doing model, which consists of strategic planning sessions with clinical staff to develop research topics within the organization. Three clinical leaders from the team meet with key executive leadership to align topics from brainstorming sessions to help attain goals on the nursing strategic plan. The clinical staff and executive leadership together identify which areas the organization will pursue as research.

How the program works

designing sustainable research strategy workshop agenda

This program encourages frontline nursing staff to participate in research by providing dedicated working time, resources, and motivation to pursue areas of research that are meaningful to their daily practice. Using a workshop structure, research proposals are written with a mentor present to help keep research groups on a strict timeline. (See Research workshop agenda.) This format allows for time and resources for bedside staff to engage in research, and focusing on patient outcomes keeps them engaged and improves participation. After research is completed, plans are developed to help researchers disseminate their findings internally and externally. The program consists of new cohort brainstorming sessions every 12 to 18 months to support continued growth and ongoing research development within the organization.

Spike in research

The program has resulted in an exponential increase in research activity. We went from one research project that took just over 2 years to complete, to four projects completed in the last 1½ years at five locations. These outcomes have been sustained over 2 years, proving that creating a structure helps embed research in the culture.

The authors work at Mercyhealth™ in Janesville, Wisconsin. Stephanie A. Walton is a patient navigator, Kara Sankey is director of IP case management and social services, and Nichelle Jensen is a hospitalist nurse practitioner.

Selected reference

Wilkes L, Jackson D. Enabling research cultures in nursing: Insights from a multidisciplinary group of experienced researchers. Nurse Res. 2013;20(4):28-34.


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