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Practice comment

"We need to do research and shout about it - or fall behind"

Nurses need to demonstrate their contribution to care by describing, measuring and comparing what they do at an international level

Recently, I attended the European Respiratory Society conference. With 15,000 delegates, the conference was a valuable opportunity to discuss respiratory medicine and service developments, and to share ideas about practice.
I was amazed to see the vast range of research studies being carried out. Having attended previous conferences, I have never been so enthused and inspired by new ideas - these are exciting times for respiratory medicine.
While I was staggered by the quality and quantity of the research, I noticed there were few qualitative studies. This was not surprising given that it was a scientific event.
But what really struck me was the lack of nurses presenting new ideas or research studies.
It could be argued that these conferences are medically driven so nursing research will always take a back seat.
However, during the course of the conference I saw many presentations by physiotherapists. They presented large, robust and clinically significant research studies and chaired several sessions. Their presentations were attended by large audiences, and their work really stood out.
Yet, while many respiratory nurses are developing services across the UK, none of them was chairing sessions or presenting similarly large, robust clinical studies at the conference.
This was disappointing as nurses are the key service providers within respiratory care, and they should be seen and heard in large numbers at these kind of events.
I’m a clinical nurse specialist, with an MSc and have been in respiratory medicine for more than 10 years. I could have submitted an abstract - but I didn’t. My reasons are probably similar to all nurses. I lack protected time, I do not have anyone actively encouraging me to carry out research and, crucially, I do not feel under pressure to carry out research.
However, having seen how physiotherapists are promoting their work so impressively, I now believe research needs to be a higher professional priority for nurses.
I also feel that, while nurses have to take some responsibility for promoting their work, professional bodies should also be supporting and actively assisting them to lead research studies.
We need to make sure that we are describing, measuring and comparing what we do at an international level. If we fail to do this, then the implications could be that we will fall behind our colleagues and our profession will not get the recognition it deserves.
In these times of heightened scrutiny, what we do needs to be published and we need to shout its value from the rooftops.
I know the idea of doing research can be a turn-off for nurses. But now is the time for the profession and the organisations that support it to start taking nurse research seriously.

Rebecca Sherrington is clinical nurse specialist, respiratory medicine, Princess Elizabeth Hospital, Guernsey

Readers' comments (5)

  • michael stone

    'However, having seen how physiotherapists are promoting their work so impressively, I now believe research needs to be a higher professional priority for nurses.
    I also feel that, while nurses have to take some responsibility for promoting their work, professional bodies should also be supporting and actively assisting them to lead research studies.
    We need to make sure that we are describing, measuring and comparing what we do at an international level. If we fail to do this, then the implications could be that we will fall behind our colleagues and our profession will not get the recognition it deserves.'

    As I have said in other debates, about 'status', I think if nurses published high-quality research, which led to positive improvements in care, it would contribute to an 'upgrading' of the 'status' of nurses.

    I'm using the quotes, to indicate that those words may not be perfect - but they should get across the idea (this 'are our views sufficiently highly regarded ?' issue).

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  • Apologies but I have to say that this sort of comment represents part of the problem...

    "I noticed there were few qualitative studies. This was not surprising given that it was a scientific event".

    There is nothing unscientific about qualitative research...the clue is in the title i.e. quality

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 2-Dec-2011 11:26 pm

    You are right about that: there is a spurious perception among many, that simply being able to 'precisely measure' something, makes it more useful than things which are harder to quantify. If the only reason you are concentrating on a factor, is because you do understand how to measure it, that is not a good idea unless there is also a sound reason to believe that factor is indeed relevant.

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  • I don't think we'll ever change the prevaling view that quantitative research is more valid because of the increased numbers of participants possible. Although Qualitative research has it's place we should try and make it as focused and upscalable as possible. for example a question like 'which professional best helped you understand your condition or treatment?' asked to pt's on discharge would likely prove the value of nurses in communication - one of the biggest areas of complaints. You could also see if there is a corrolation between nurse numbers and patient satisfaction with communication.

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  • @ Anonymous | 2-Dec-2011 11:26 pm

    some research which is not science is valuable, just as some science has little or no value, but to be science your hypothesis must be falsifiable.

    qualitative research is very good at gaining insights into an under-researched area, or an over-researched area where little progress is being made, among other things.

    it is generally less good at supporting or rejecting the null hypothesis, so it is not surprising that there is less of it at science symposia and conferences. on the other hand, that there is some qualitative research at science conferences is also not surprising, as scientists, and perhaps physiotherapists, like to balance their skepticism with open mindedness.

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