Nursing Research: A Cross-Sectional Study of Academic-Clinical Collaborations

Further research into collaborations may help strengthen nursing science

Nursing research collaboration

When a group of eight nurse scientists set out to study academic-clinical research collaborations, a literature review revealed an abundance of papers on education collaborations, but very few that addressed research partnerships.

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“In order to grow nursing research as a profession, we need collaborative research,” says Nancy Albert, PhD, CCNS, CHFN, CCRN, NE-BC, FAHA, FCCM, FHFSA, FAAN, Associate Chief Nursing Officer of Cleveland Clinic’s Office of Nursing Research and Innovation and a principal investigator on the study. “I believe that projects that are multidisciplinary, involving nurses with colleagues in different professions, or interdisciplinary, involving nurses from both academic and clinical settings, can lead to the strongest research.”

Key results of the study

Albert and her co-investigators conducted a cross-sectional study to compare characteristics, resources, benefits and outcomes of academic-clinical collaborations of nursing researcher leaders from academic, clinical and joint-employer sites. They developed a 40-item questionnaire, performed content validity testing, then emailed the questionnaire to members of the Midwest Nursing Research Society.

A total of 123 questionnaires were returned from nurse leaders or nurse research leaders, of which 120 were used in analysis. (Three questionnaires had incomplete data.) Only seven were from joint employers (academic and clinical researchers). Although sites with and without academic-clinical research collaborations differed, research outcomes were similar.

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“We thought our outcomes would show that there was more research published and presented from sites with research collaborations versus academic or clinical research on its own,” says Dr. Albert. “We were surprised that wasn’t the case.”

The findings reflect that sites and nurse researchers who truly wish to conduct nursing research find a way, regardless of how simple or advanced their systems, processes and resources are.

Implications of the study

A close examination of the seven academic-clinical research collaborations showed that six were at large academic medical centers with a college of nursing, which made partnerships convenient. One was a small clinical hospital without a nurse scientist, so linking to an academic center provided necessary resources.

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“More research on the theme of academic-clinical research collaborations is needed. After we set aside nurse researchers who participate in academic-clinical collaborations out of convenience or need, we need to better understand when, why and how we can do a better job of fostering and facilitating multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and multi-site collaborations,” says Dr. Albert. “We need to think about the value of collaboration, what it means for research interpretation and translation in terms of strength and quality of evidence, and the generalizability of findings. Ultimately, we want to advance nursing science.”

The study was first published in the December 2020 issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing. Dr. Albert and her co-investigators are currently working on a new multi-center research study including academic and clinical collaborators.