Break down the barriers to nursing research

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Break down the barriers to nursing research

After reading this article, you will be able to:

  • Identify the results from a survey focused on nursing research barriers
  • Recall strategies to increase staff engagement

The word “research” can send nurses running. Barriers such as a lack of knowledge on a topic and inadequate time to conduct literature searches can create anxiety and confusion. But with a little effort, nurse managers can help nurses become engaged in research activities.

“It’s about breaking down those barriers and letting nurses know that research can be fun and exciting because of what you learn,” says Wendy Tuzik Micek, PhD, RN, director of professional development and research and the ANCC Magnet Recognition Program® project director at Advocate Christ Medical Center/Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, IL.

Micek knows the ins and outs of breaking down research barriers. And with the help of the hospital’s nurse researcher Cheryl Lefaiver, PhD, RN, 336 Advocate Christ nurses were surveyed with The BARRIERS to Research Utilization Scale, which was created in the late 1980s by a team of researchers led by Sandy Funk. Micek and Lefaiver used the survey to examine nurses’ views about nursing research and what they perceive as obstacles to research implementation.

The results provided the foundation for the duo to develop resources that broke down barriers and improved staff involvement in nursing research.

Get the word out

“In looking at the data from the survey results, staff identified their highest research barriers as lack of awareness [regarding resources] on research, insufficient time to read and implement research, and feeling a lack of support to make change,” Micek says.

To remedy these issues, Micek and Lefaiver implemented changes with the help of:

  • Articles. Every nurse gets a copy of the hospital’s bimonthly newsletter Nursing Now, which features articles related to nursing research.

Lefaiver and Micek have written several articles for the newsletter, including:

“How to Ask a Researchable Question”

“Evidence-Based Practice, Research Utilization, and Nursing Research: What’s the Connection?”

“Nursing Research: Searching for the Evidence”

  • Education. Staff nurses can attend a class called Contact Hour: Learning the Technique of Research Critique to feel more confident about evaluating research articles. During this class, Micek and Lefaiver take research articles that were featured in the hospital’s newsletter and critique them with staff members.
  • Orientation. Micek and Lefaiver offer presentations during nursing orientation on the resources staff nurses have available to help make a research project a reality.
  • Experts. During Nurses Week, Micek brings in nursing research and evidence-based practice experts to speak about what resources are available outside the hospital. “Sometimes, you’re not surfing the Web looking for the most recent handbook on evidence-based practice,” Micek says. “But if we bring it to you, and you can see where some of these chapters might be applicable to your practice, you are much more likely to take a look at it [than if you were] sitting down and saying, ‘I wonder what’s out there.’ ”
  • Conferences. Staff members attend national conferences to see what other organizations are doing in terms of research projects and what challenges they encountered. “We take what has been successful and implement it at our medical center to make patient care and nursing practice better,” Micek says.
  • Bulletin boards. A nursing research bulletin board is posted near a busy elevator at the hospital. The bulletin board features research abstracts and posters that were completed in-house or accepted for conferences. Micek says this was created to bring research visibility and communication to the facility.
  • Reports. A quarterly research activities report is distributed to all staff members, detailing:
  • Research project titles, authors, and the nursing unit or department on which the author works
  • Publications that accepted a staff member’s project, the staff member’s name, and the project title
  • Projects submitted to the hospital’s institutional review board (IRB) and IRB-approved proposal abstracts that have been submitted to conferences or publications
  • Research projects that are taking place during a specific quarter

Make time for research

To help staff members save time on literature searches, Micek and Lefaiver use:

  • Briefs. Evidence-based practice briefs are literature reviews that a nurse has synthesized on a particular topic, such as falls.

The briefs are posted on the hospital’s nursing research intranet site. Staff members interested in a particular topic can go into the key articles that support that body of work and begin their research project, instead of starting at the beginning of a literature search.

  • One-on-one time. Nurses are able to have one-on-one time with Lefaiver to synthesize literature if the nurse has an idea.

Lefaiver sits down with the staff member to review the project idea and discuss whether it’s a feasible, researchable question.

“Nursing research is one of those things that is difficult to implement into an organization unless you have some dedicated resources that focus on it,” Micek says. “If somebody asked me what would be my No. 1 resource or tool that has really made a difference in our organization, I would say it was our professional nurse researcher. Having a full-time researcher dedicated to helping mentor staff and their projects has definitely been hugely successful.”

Note: If your budget doesn’t allow for a full-time nurse researcher, collaborate with a local nursing school’s researcher to meet with staff members at least once per month to guide them on how to critique research articles and facilitate a project.

Provide ongoing support

Micek has found support from managers, directors, and the CNO as another important piece in improving staff participation in nursing research.

If a staff nurse has a research project or poster that is accepted to a national or local conference, the CNO at Advocate Christ is willing to pay the nurse’s way so he or she can represent the medical center.

Additional support comes from an advanced practice nurse (APN) and a nurse manager within the nursing units. The APN helps facilitate on the unit when a staff nurse has a research project idea by first gauging the nurse’s interest level. Then, the APN will transition the nurse to Lefaiver, so she can conduct one-on-one time with the nurse.

Gauge success

Micek and Lefaiver gauge their success on breaking down research barriers and improving staff involvement in research by the number of projects staff members conduct.

In 2006, there were seven approved research projects by the IRB and 21 presentations or posters submitted to national and local conferences. In 2007, there were 15 approved IRB submissions and more than 40 presentations and posters submitted.

“Look at what your staff is saying about nursing research barriers and identify support and resource pieces out there that will help staff overcome those barriers,” Micek says.


Adapted from HCPro’s Advisor to the ANCC Magnet Recognition Program®, October 2008, HCPro, Inc.