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Nursing Research: Alive and Well

September 17, 2012

By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN editor-in-chief

Last week I spent two-and-a-half days in Washington, DC, where there are LOTS of campaign collectibles. My favorite: coffee mugs proclaiming “Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote [insert Democratic or Republican).” Also noteworthy: “Hot for Mitt” and “Hot for Barack” hot sauce (see photos). I was there attending the meeting of the Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science (CANS), where close to 1,000 nursing researchers met to share their work. It wasn’t too long ago that one would have been hard-pressed to find that many nurses doing research. The National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) only celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2010 (see our 2010 article about their many accomplishments).

Creativity and innovation. Kathi Mooney, PhD, RN, FAAN, from the University of Utah College of Nursing, gave the keynote—and it was perfectly suited to this group, many of whose members are immersed in analytical thought and scientific methodology. Mooney talked about the importance of creativity and innovation in moving research forward—yes, applying scientific rigor to identifying knowledge gaps and building on known research is critical, but she urged attendees to step back occasionally and be open to other ways of thinking.

To do that, she said, one must create time for reflection and thinking. She also encouraged deans and faculty to foster environments that support creativity, where there’s freedom to explore non-mainstream thinking, risk taking is encouraged, and there’s time for social interaction and informal encounters.

Posters and symposiums and podium presentations filled the rest of the schedule. The presentations were akin to speed dating—researchers had less than 15 minutes to present the highlights of their work. I’m sure for those presenting and those involved in the particular area of research, it might have been frustrating, but for someone like me seeking what’s new and compelling across many areas, it was an ideal format. As one presenter said, “It’s like being a detective on Dragnet, that old TV show, where the lead detective would say, ‘Just give me the facts, please.'”

Some takeaways for me:

Creative thinking involves reframing problems and tasks (one example from Mooney: does the stone cutter see his job as cutting large chunks of stone, or as being part of a team that’s building a cathedral).

NINR director Pat Grady, talking about the NINR budget, which is the third smallest in the NIH: “Flat budgets are the new increase.” (For information on NINR activities, go to www.ninr.nih.gov.)

Melissa Swank from Transtria, speaking on evidence-based practice work around obesity, cited Lawrence Green: “If we want more evidence-based practice, we need more practice-based evidence.” (Think about it.)

Diana Mason, president-elect of the American Academy of Nursing and AJN editor-in-chief emeritus—in responding to a presentation on effectiveness science and moving innovation forward—noted that financial data on the cost of implementation is critically important, but we must also look at the cost of doing nothing.

And the question that seemed to keep coming up in various sessions: “So how can we move what we know into practice?”

Isn’t this the crux of the matter? We have research about many areas of patient care, yet we’re often still ruled by tradition—e.g., see Jeannette Crenshaw’s article on pre-op fasting, which notes that we still practice NPO after midnight despite 25 years of evidence and guidelines to the contrary. Also see our blog post reporting what our AJN Facebook fans listed as other outdated practices: “Killing Traditional Nursing Duties #1.”

We’d love to hear from readers who have had success in implementing evidence-based practice changes.

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