Nursing Research at St. Joseph's

Nursing Research at St. Joseph's

Promoting better patient care with evidence-based practice

By Beth Duggan
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Have you ever wondered why a procedure is done a certain way? Or why a certain action is taken? If your answer is, “Because it’s always been done that way,” then you’d benefit from a little nursing research.

Not clear on what that is? Let Dana Rutledge, RN, Ph.D., facilitator of the Office of Nursing Research at St. Joseph, enlighten you.

“Nursing research involves multiple steps,” she said. “Thinking of the research question, reviewing the literature to see what else is known on the topic, developing a research plan, seeking approval from the institutional review board, collecting data, analyzing data, and disseminating the results through a written report or poster.”

According to Ms. Rutledge and her assistant, Vickie Morrison, RN, MSN, FNP, this kind of research is important because the results offer a chance to improve patient outcomes. And nurses who stay current about evidence in their area are more likely to use best evidence.

A Culture of Inquiry

St. Joseph’s nursing research department started in June 2004 as the hospital began its journey toward magnet status. Lacking a Ph.D.-prepared nurse who could conduct the research, they brought in Ms. Rutledge, who is also a professor in the nursing department at California State University, Fullerton.

Through her facilitation and the work of Ms. Morrison, the research office has, according to the staff,  “led to a culture of inquiry, and the desire to base nursing care practices on best evidence.” Inquiring nurses at St. Joseph have been performing both evidence-based practice changes and research, and some have even submitted abstracts to conferences for podium and poster presentations about projects that have been completed.

One such case was a group of nurses in the ambulatory post-anesthesia care unit. Their research found that patients were not fully prepared for their surgical experience, which led to changed materials sent to physicians’ offices and phone calls made to patients before their procedure to help them feel more prepared. The results were presented as a poster at a regional conference.

The two nurses say the biggest challenge in their work has been getting word out that there is a Nursing Research Office, so in 2007 they visited almost all the departments in the hospital that employ nurses to discuss what the Office of Nursing Research does and to find out what questions nurses have about their own practice.

The success of that initiative has bred more success for the office, which means juggling multiple projects at once.

“Right now we have two manuscripts to nursing journals that we submitted with study results, both of which require revisions,” said Ms. Morrison. “We have four newly approved studies that are in the beginning phases of data collection; we have two studies that are ready for data analysis; and the rest are all in the data collection phase. Then there are three groups of nurses who are in the preparation phases.”

Evidence-based Blog

In March 2006, Julie Smith, MLS, AHIP, the medical librarian at St. Joseph, wanted to give a unique contribution and enhance the arena of EBP and nursing research. This led her to the Internet, where she developed a blog dedicated to “bringing awareness to current nursing literature, conferences, resources and tutorials.”

The first team nursing blog dedicated to EBP and research, it is full of useful information such as how to read research articles, how to create a poster for dissemination, and new information on EBP. It also gives tips for searching on St. Joseph’s and Childrens Hospital Orange County’s research databases. To date the site has received approximately 71,000 hits, which averages to 102 daily and 3,060 each month.

“Evidence-based practice in nursing is constantly changing with new research and new evidence,” Ms. Rutledge said. “The most important significance for EBP is the fact that nurses are learning how to use evidence at the bedside to improve patient outcomes. EBP provides a solid foundation for nursing to change practice in a manner that is systematic and credible.”   

Beth Duggan is the editor of Working Nurse.

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