Nurses spend most of their time caring for patients. These in-depth experiences with patients give them unique insights into treatment effectiveness, hospital efficiency, and clinical and nonclinical factors that impact patient safety, comfort and healing.
“They’ve had the experiences and can tell the stories,” says Jennifer Manning, DNS, ACNS-BC, CNE Associate Dean for the Undergraduate Nursing Program, Program Director of the Baccalaureate Articulation Program and Associate Professor of Clinical Nursing. “Nursing is about more than just patient care; it’s also about advancing the science of nursing,” she says. “Giving nurses the tools and opportunities to gather and apply data and evidence enables them to drive change at their clinics and hospitals and even influence policy changes at the local, state and national levels.”
Dr. Manning has been a nurse researcher at East Jefferson General Hospital for two years. There, she provides guidance and professional development, and often serves as a co-principal investigator (PI) for nurses and other staff who are often embarking on research for the first time. As a four-time American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet®-designated hospital, East Jefferson has a longer culture of nurse research than many other hospitals.
“Getting nurses into the literature helps them learn about the different types of research out there and gets them speaking the language of research and really embedding it into their culture,” Dr. Manning says. “They conduct research, disseminate that research at national conferences and are excited to bring best practices back to their colleagues.”
At East Jefferson, nurses recently completed a study focused on end-of-life nursing. Staff nurses had expressed that they needed more education to take care of patients at the end of their lives. The hospital invited a renowned speaker to talk to the staff about best practices, and an East Jefferson respiratory staff member served as a PI for the first time – with Dr. Manning’s guidance – and, with a team of nurse researchers, completed and published a study titled, “Effectiveness of an End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium Training on Registered Nurses’ Educational Needs in Providing Palliative and End-of-Life Patient Care.”
Nurses at East Jefferson are also getting ready to evaluate the impact of a newly released hospital alcohol withdrawal protocol on patient outcomes. The research study will use a retrospective chart review design and is currently under development. An Institutional Review Board proposal will be presented in May 2021 for approval, and they hope to begin data collection in June 2021.
Last summer, East Jefferson General Hospital joined LCMC Health, which also includes University Medical Center New Orleans (UMC) and Children’s Hospital New Orleans, where two of Dr. Manning’s School of Nursing colleagues – Benita Chatmon, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, Assistant Dean for Clinical Nursing Education and Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing, and Todd Tartavoulle, DNS, APRN, CNS-BC, Program Director for the Traditional BSN Program and Associate Professor of Clinical Nursing – serve as nurse researchers.
Dr. Manning and her colleagues met this winter to establish a collaborative, multisite study that would be relevant to all three hospitals.
“We decided to look at the experiences nurses have been through over the last year with COVID-19 and its effects on their work-life balance,” Dr. Manning says. “We’ll also collaborate on a Research Day in December 2021.”
Offering Critical Perspectives on Patient Needs
In addition to her collaborative work with Dr. Manning and Dr. Tartavoulle, Dr. Chatmon works with any nurses or auxiliary staff interested in research at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. She has helped nurses undertake several recently completed studies, including: “Pediatric Registered Nurses’ Attitudes Towards Caring for Dying Children and Their Families,” “The Effect of Nurse Preceptor Experience Level on the Turnover Rate of Inpatient Nurses at a Pediatric Hospital,” and “Differences in Perceptions of Practice Readiness Among Pediatric Preceptors and New Nurse Graduates.”
As a mentor to nurse and staff researchers, Dr. Chatmon says their goal this past year was to conduct one research study, and they managed to complete three with some others in progress. In addition to staff researchers, some students from the School of Nursing’s undergraduate program and its PhD program are also conducting research at Children’s.
“Health care is transforming, and nurses will need to be at the forefront to lead needed change,” Dr. Chatmon says. “Nurses have a different perspective on the needs of patients, which is very important. In my role, I am hoping to reduce the fear or intimidation some nurses feel about conducting research and encourage their growth in this area.”
Supporting a Cultural Shift to Improve Care
Dr. Tartavoulle says his role at University Medical Center New Orleans also involves helping staff nurses with data collection and the development of evidence-based practices based on this data.
“In one of our current projects, nurses are looking at the severity of interpersonal and sexual violence during the COVID-19 pandemic after one of our sexual assault nurses noticed a rise in severity, if not incidence, of this type of violence,” Dr. Tartavoulle says. “This research study aims to create an intervention that will recognize these at-risk patients earlier.”
Another nurse is looking at prescribing trends in the emergency department related to patients with opioid overdose, in an effort to develop an effective and standardized protocol. Other nurses are examining the effectiveness of Sudden Impact, an interactive program that educates high school sophomores about the dangers of driving impaired, driving without a seat belt and distracted driving. The program is facilitated by the Injury Prevention Program from University Medical Center’s Level 1 Trauma Center and by the Louisiana State Police, and the study looks at its impact on high-risk driving behaviors in teens.
“Nurses regularly identify problems we can fix, and the research we do can have a big impact on patient outcomes.”
Dr. Todd Tartavoulle
Having just started at UMC in January 2021, Dr. Tartavoulle is trying to help build a culture of nurse-driven research.
“Many of these nurses have had a basic introduction to research course, but my role is to guide them through creating research questions, submitting proposals to the Institutional Review Board, gathering data and presenting their research,” he says. Both UMC and Children’s are applying for Magnet® status, which requires a strong nurse-driven research program.
“Nurses can be drivers of change by leading research projects, but they have to embrace it and not be afraid because nurses have not traditionally been in that role,” Dr. Tartavoulle says. “It’s time for a cultural shift. Nurses regularly identify problems we can fix, and the research we do can have a big impact on patient outcomes.”