Expanding Evidence to Improve Patient Care

Nurse scientists share their knowledge at 16th conference

Recap of research conference

Healthcare requires nursing caregivers to use wisdom and curiosity to make advances that improve patients’ lives. At Cleveland Clinic’s 16 Clinical Nursing Research Conference in April 2021, about 300 academic and clinical nurses convened in the spirit of scientific inquiry to hear and discuss presentations of research project findings and to learn more about research designs and methods, as new knowledge can be used when they pursue their own projects.  

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The two-day conference, held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, featured 21 oral presentations, 40 poster presentations, and opportunities to ask questions and chat with attendees and presenters. The goal of the annual conference is to disseminate knowledge gained through nurse researchers’ investigations, says Sandra L Siedlecki, PhD, RN, APRN-CNS, FAAN, a senior nurse scientist at the Stanley Shalom Zielony Institute for Nursing Excellence.

“There is a need for nursing research conferences that are geared toward the clinical nurse and clinical nursing research,” says Dr. Siedlecki. “The presentations at the conference demonstrated how clinical nurses identify and research everyday clinical problems that impact our patients and our caregivers.”

Cleveland Clinic Executive Chief Nursing Officer Meredith Foxx, MSN, MBA, APRN, NEA-BC, PCNS-BC, emphasized the connection between evidence and quality care. “I want all nurses to go to the literature and find evidence that supports our practices,” she said. “And more than that, I want nurses to use innovation in this space – to come back to their teams and share what is new and promising in the evidence so we can adopt it and make it part of our care delivery.” 

Keynotes included “Sleep in People with Heart Failure: Evolution of a Program of Research” by Nancy S. Redeker, PhD, RN, Beatrice Renfield Term Professor of Nursing at Yale School of Nursing. Dr. Redeker used her own area of research to illustrate her path along the “yellow-brick road” from exploratory research to practice and policy. 

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“Implementation Science & Nursing Research: A Critical Connection” was presented by Molly McNett, PhD, RN, Professor of Clinical Nursing in the College of Nursing at The Ohio State University. Dr. McNett explored the science of understanding what succeeds and fails when it comes to turning evidence into accepted practice. In many cases, information alone is not enough to promote uptake of new protocols. “People don’t always do it, or they start to drift back to old ways,” she said. 

Other presentations included a look at the difference between research and quality improvement efforts, by Cleveland Clinic nurse scientist Connie Cottrell, PhD, MHA, RN; the use of a sepsis screening tool in the emergency department, by Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center nurses Catalina J. Howland, MSN, RN, FNP-C, Stacy Kim, MSN, RN, and Stephanie Fernandez, BSN, RN; and examination of the use of Claritin® to mitigate bone pain in patients who have received chemotherapy for breast cancer, by Cleveland Clinic nurse practitioner Jeannette Mazzola, MSN, APRN-CNP.

Key takeaways  

Over the course of the conference, Nancy M. Albert, PhD, CCNS, CHFN, CCRN, NE-BC, FAHA, FHFSA, FCCM, FAAN, Associate Chief Nursing Officer at Cleveland Clinic’s Office of Nursing Research and Innovation took notes of her perceptions of important themes that emerged.

On the second day of the conference, she shared her take-away messages: 

Follow your passion. Albert advised nurses to pursue topics of genuine interest to them and to find mentors who can support them through the process.

Consider resources.  A larger healthcare system may offer many resources that can help meet needs associated with developing and conducting research, including biostatisticians and an art department, but smaller organizations might be more limited. She advised nurses to think through the resources available to them and work within their scope.

Take advantage of training opportunities.
 “I’m not good at speaking a foreign language, but I did learn the language of analysis, research methodology and designs, and ways to make sure a proposed research project is feasible and rigorous,” Albert said. “We know that if you’re a clinical nurse, you may not have that research language – you just haven’t learned it yet.” She encouraged nurses to seek expert colleagues or consultants with the right training to help. 

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Go deep with research. “Once you complete your initial research project, I encourage you to take the lessons learned and determine what new research questions you can ask to take the research theme to the next level,” Albert said. “Going deep can be really meaningful; rather than moving on to a new topic. By digging deeper into the theme, you can get to the heart of what you’re trying to learn and make a difference in our patients’ lives.” 

Finally, Albert added, nurses should embark on research with a spirit of expecting the unexpected. Meticulous research often leads to new questions or provides evidence that goes counter to expectations. That information is just as valuable as research that confirms hoped-for results, she said.