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November 2004 Issue

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NIH Validates Nurses' Research Role

Published November 2004

As nursing evolved--from just following a physician's instructions and keeping the patient comfortable, to playing a decision-making role--demand grew for data that demonstrated the profession's contribution to quality care and patient satisfaction.

"There was a call to quantify nursing outcomes and find ways of improving them," says Andrea Lindell, DNSc, RN, dean of the College of Nursing. "So nurses began research to validate their role, their contribution to health care delivery, and even their cost effectiveness."

In the late 1960s and 1970s the movement of nurses into research brought about a coalition pushing for what eventually became the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR). Founded in 1986 as the National Center for Nursing Research at the NIH, the NINR became an institute in its own right in 1993.

This was the most significant step, Dean Lindell says, in the nurse's transition from bedside caregiver to change agent in health care development and delivery.

Dean Lindell was also challenged by then senior vice president and provost for health affairs Donald Harrison, MD, to bring in research grants and establish her college as a major player at UC's academic health center. Already convinced that leadership among nursing colleges requires quality research as well as quality teaching, Dean Lindell began a 10-year quest to build up her school's own Institute for Nursing Research.

"If you're going to develop alternative sources of revenue and collaborative partnerships," says Dean Lindell, "you have to establish yourself as a research entity. And for that you need to build an environment with resources to attract and retain excellent teachers and researchers."

Dean Lindell appointed faculty to benchmark other successful nursing schools, studying their plans for faculty development, skills and competencies. She herself also attended research conferences, recruited faculty with strong research interests, and brought in mentors and established collaborative partnerships with health care facilities and business enterprises.

Based in the College of Nursing, the institute supports patient-centered science by assisting with data collection, abstract writing, poster development, podium presentations and slides, literature searches, grant applications, and data analysis. It also provides seed money for internal pilot studies and projects.

And the process of professional evolution is ongoing, as Dean Lindell continues to develop faculty and hire and contract with nurse researchers to help establish protocols and critique grant applications before they are submitted.

"We're making a concerted effort to ensure that submitted grant proposals for funding reflect a quality product written by qualified and experienced faculty," she says.

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