Advancing Care Through Stopping to Wonder

Emory Healthcare Team Members

Recently, tucked away in a conference room at Emory University Hospital, four Emory Healthcare nurses took a brief pause. They shut the hustle and bustle of the only academic health care system in Atlanta out for a moment to share the details of the vast nursing research programs being spearheaded at Emory Healthcare. Since the organization is affiliated with the world-renowned Emory University, employees have access to pioneering research facilities and the latest health care knowledge.

“I will often hear that our emphasis on nursing research is one of the reasons why employees are drawn here,” explains Yvonne Schmitt, Emory Healthcare nurse manager and contributor to the organization’s annual evidence-based practice conference, a collaboration of Emory Healthcare and other Atlanta-based organizations.

So how comprehensive can one organization’s commitment to research actually be? As it turns out, it can be so strong that it reaches every bedside nurse and leaves knowledge and innovation of practice for generations to come.

“It’s all about improving patient care,” says Sharlene Toney, executive director, Professional Nursing Practice for Emory Healthcare, as she explains the emphasis on research. According to Sharlene, nursing has a unique opportunity to partner with Emory University School of Nursing faculty to collaborate on research projects. For 2009, nursing has set the goal of 12 IRB-approved nursing research studies where the RN is the principal investigator (PI) or Co-PI. In fact, just this past year, Sharlene was the PI or Co-PI on two studies — one looking at lateral violence among nurses and a second investigating the factors influencing surrogate end-of-life health care decision making for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease.

Enabling Research at the Bedside

To ensure that every bedside nurse is engaged in these projects and has available the opportunity to embark on his or her own research journeys, the Emory Healthcare team has launched myriad nursing research program options, such as the nursing research day in early 2009 and the evidence-based practice conference previously mentioned, one that drew more than 220 attendees from all over the United States in September 2008.

Additionally, the Nursing Research Council, first launched in 2006, serves as a shared governance council for all of nursing at Emory Healthcare. The intent of the council is to drive the path for research at Emory Healthcare. According to Deborah McClendon, a unit director who served as the first chair of the Nursing Research Council, “The goal of the council and our research efforts is to have our nurses empowered at the bedside. The more information they have, the better. It all starts with the bedside nurses saying, ‘I wonder.’ From there, the possibilities are limitless.”

Nurses also enjoy access to a three-day Nursing Research Residency Program offered two times a year. During the program, they learn the definition of research, what it means to patient care and how to move forward — down to community training and even obtaining access to online research capabilities available only in academic settings. Additionally, the Nursing Research Fellowship Program — new for 2009 — provides step-by-step guidance for participants, all the way from identifying their research projects to submitting it for publication.

Nurses Owning Their Practice

“There are so many components of nursing research here that we could discuss,” says Joyce Oglesby, a nursing department director who oversees a medical/surgical department with allocated beds for research. She also serves as the president of the Atlanta Clinical & Translational Science Institute Nursing Research Alliance. “However, the main point is that it is our focus to have every nurse developing and writing evidence to support what we do,” she concludes.

“This is so true,” confirms Sharlene, as the list of nursing research activities grows during the conversation. “Our message at Emory Healthcare is that nursing is both an art and a science. We own our practice and we own our science. Therefore, we have a professional obligation to impact patient care and outcomes through conducting research and utilizing evidence-based practice.”

Pictured: (from left to right) Emory Healthcare's Yvonne Schmitt, Joyce Oglesby, Sharlene Toney and Deborah McClendon