Nurse Scientist Partnership Drawing More Nurses into Research

Feb. 5, 2020

In a collaborative effort, Wilmot and the University of Rochester School of Nursing support nurse-initiated research programs through the development of the Oncology Nurse Scientist Partnership. Led by Ph.D.-level nurses with advanced training in research principles and methodology, the Partnership is aimed at advancing oncology research. The scientists also act as mentors for direct care nurse-led research.

K.C. Clevenger

“Despite the increasing numbers of publications, science often fails to translate the research findings into improved patient care,” says KC Clevenger, PhD, RN, BC-PNP, FAAN, Wilmot’s Chief Nursing Officer. “Nurses are in a unique position to bridge this translational gap by combining the profession’s approach of holistic care and research activities.”

Being able to bridge that gap means helping nurses recognize that they are involved in research nearly every day and equipping them to contribute questions and ideas to scientific discussion.

Seeing this need, nurse scientist Jamie Oliva, Ph.D., ANP-BC, BMTCN, has developed a research education and training series through the Partnership to help Wilmot nurses understand how to use and manage research and to lead their own projects.

“As nurses, we need to know how to find evidence, how to choose evidence to evaluate, and we need to know how to appraise it,” Oliva says. “Then we need to know how to apply it. So, if you don't know those aspects of evidence-based practice, then you are limited in your ability to contribute to meaningful clinical outcomes for our patients, because, theoretically, everything that you do in patient care should be evidence-based.”

But getting more nurses involved in research has historically been a challenge for a variety of reasons, ranging from needing dedicated time away from the patient to limited opportunities for research education and training to a lack of awareness that conducting research is even an option for nurses.

That’s why Clevenger insisted that nurse scientists be based in the clinic environment.

“Having a nurse scientist onsite, particularly in an academic setting, has been shown to have a snowball effect with nurses becoming proficient at both asking questions and then answering them using rigorous scientific methodology,” Clevenger says. “It can lead to scientific breakthroughs that combine research with the real world.”

Since the Partnership began in 2018, Wilmot’s nurse scientists have already brought existing research findings to the direct care nurses, fostered and guided small tests of change, mentored quality improvement projects, and are overseeing small research studies. They have also made sure that a nurse scientist sits on the research review and feasibility committee for all oncology research at Wilmot.

These efforts support Wilmot’s pursuit of National Cancer Institute designation, and they are helping to raise Wilmot Nursing’s profile nationally. In 2019, Wilmot was recognized as one of the sites with the highest number of abstracts accepted from a single institution at the annual Oncology Nursing Society Congress. In addition, the Partnership is leading to new roles within Wilmot, including a Research Nurse Manager, who oversees the growing team of research nurses across the cancer center.

Wilmot’s nurse scientists are also building resources to help other nurses interested in growing their experience with research. Among these resources is an Oncology Research Council that includes Wilmot nurses, nurse scientists, leaders, representatives from the Clinical Trials Office and others. This group meets regularly to discuss what research is underway at Wilmot and how nurses can get involved. The Partnership also hosts monthly sessions on research essentials that include topics such as developing abstracts and what’s in a research budget.

“The clinical practice is so busy, and thinking about research is so big,” Oliva says. “We are committed to figuring out how to overcome these barriers.”