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Research Benefits from Nursing Insight

Research Benefits from Nursing Insight

The Johns Hopkins Clinical Research Network’s nursing collaboration brings clinical nurses into the research realm.

How can novice nurses best learn about the difficulties that older LGBTQ adults face in dealing with the health care system?

Suzanne Dutton, a geriatric advanced practice nurse at Sibley Memorial Hospital, decided to screen Gen Silent, a 2010 documentary that follows six LGBTQ seniors who are trying to decide whether to be open about their sexuality while navigating options in long-term care.

Afterward, according to a 2021 study she published in Nurse Education Today, Dutton found a statistically significant increase in knowledge and inclusive attitudes among the 379 nurses who watched the film.

“If we’re not showing these things — that LGBTQ people had to be closeted and that homosexuality was classified as a pathological disease until 1974 — nurses won’t fully understand their health care challenges and emotional hardships,” Dutton says.

Her study was one of several conducted within the Johns Hopkins Clinical Research Network (JHCRN) nursing research collaboration. The network, founded in 2009, connects physician-scientists and staff members from Johns Hopkins Medicine with community health care systems for multisite clinical research. The nursing portion, started in 2014, engages nurses in research that addresses ways to improve working conditions for nurses as well as outcomes for patients.

“Nursing research is looking at ways to overcome barriers in health care, refine education, promote cultural sensitivity and achieve resilience in nursing,” says Melissa Gerstenhaber, the JHCRN research nurse navigator who started the nursing collaboration. “There are plenty of reasons to study nurses themselves because they’re the ones who are really out there in the grind.”

Along with Johns Hopkins hospitals, partners in the network include Luminis Health, TidalHealth, Reading Hospital, George Mason University and WellSpan. The network offers a triple win: The research benefits from a diverse pool of subjects, the partner hospitals benefit by gaining access to cutting-edge treatments and ideas, and patients benefit by receiving those new treatments at their local hospitals.

In addition to engaging in multisite studies, the research collaboration helps nurses stay abreast of emerging nursing and interdisciplinary research; provides peer review on grant proposals, abstracts and publications; serves as a think tank for future research ideas through sharing possible resources, funding options, journals and conferences; and helps mentor clinical nurses and share best practices to engage them in research. So far, about two dozen nurses have taken part in research throughout the network.

Topics of other published studies from the nursing collaboration include how to engage nurses in research, and burnout and resilience in health care workers (see sidebar).

Dutton’s LGBTQ study won the systemwide award for outstanding research project at the 2021 SHINE Conference (the Johns Hopkins Health System Showcase for Hopkins Inquiry and Nursing Excellence).

Gerstenhaber mentions an upcoming study by Rebecca Wright, an assistant professor and director for diversity, equity and inclusion in the school of nursing, who has received a $10,000 grant from the Dorothy Evans Lyne Fund to study how health care professionals can partner with Puerto Rican and Korean American communities to facilitate culturally sensitive decision-making at the end of life. Additionally, a follow-up looking at the role of mid-level managers in research — led by principal investigator Mary Jo Lombardo, clinical education program manager at Howard County General Hospital — should be published soon.

Adrian Dobs, director of the JHCRN and a professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says the nursing collaboration is an important part of the network. She notes that because nurses are highly involved in caring for patients, they often have more interactions with them than doctors do.

“Nurses see things and hear things that doctors don’t, which affects conditions and diseases,” Dobs says. “Nursing care needs to be studied. We’re excited that we have this opportunity of working with groups of nurses at many medical institutions.”

Nurses interested in learning more can contact Melissa Gerstenhaber at mgerste1@jhmi.edu.

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