Nursing school partners with outside groups for research projects

Media Credit: Sabrina Godin | Hatchet Photographer

Pamela Jeffries, the dean of the School of Nursing, said that over the past two years, officials in the school have worked to build a “research base” and programs for faculty interested in research endeavors.

The nursing school is partnering with outside foundations and organizations to make nursing research projects more competitive.

Officials in the nursing school said they are working to engage more nursing faculty in research projects with additional hires focused on research projects and more events focused on research engagement. Officials said they want researchers to collaborate with other schools within the University and partner with outside organizations to make their projects more appealing to funders.

The move comes after the School of Nursing implemented its strategic plan in January, which also pushes for a greater emphasis on research within the school.

Pamela Jeffries, the dean of the School of Nursing, said that over the past two years, officials in the school have worked to build a “research base” and programs for faculty interested in research endeavors. She said when a researcher is hired, officials look at potential cross-collaborations and how the individual can work across other schools, disciplines and focus areas.

“A robust research project will have high-quality investigators bringing different expertise in methods, statistics and content expertise, among other areas,” Jeffries said in an email. “Researchers in GW Nursing are encouraged to collaborate and, for the most part, have already collaborated with others prior to being hired at GW Nursing.”

Jeffries said that in “today’s competitive grant funding world,” grants are typically not funded unless there is collaboration across disciplines, schools and research sites.

“Nurses do not work in silos but are a part of a health care team,” she said.

Jeffries said researchers in the nursing school are also able to partner with hospitals to conduct research that explores different health care models and strategies for better transition to practice. She said researchers can also partner with outside funders like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a public health philanthropic organization.

At a Faculty Assembly meeting last month, officials presented a report visualizing individual schools’ collaborations with other schools or outside groups. The report showed that the nursing school most often works with institutions or organizations that fall in the “other” category, which Jeffries said includes foundations, professional organizations and hospital partners.

Jeanne Geiger-Brown, the associate dean for research, said cross-disciplinary collaboration in research is a “priority” for the nursing school, and researchers are encouraged to pursue partnerships with faculty from other schools, like the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the Milken Institute School of Public Health and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Geiger-Brown said officials in the nursing school meet “regularly” with faculty members who are interested in conducting research to examine all of the possibilities for collaboration within GW and with outside partners.

“We align our faculty with the best possible research partners to ensure that the collaboration is a true team effort,” Geiger-Brown said in an email.

Melissa Batchelor-Murphy, an associate professor and geriatric nursing researcher, said she was brought in as a research professor this academic year to help the nursing school work toward expanding the school’s research profile. She said faculty within the nursing school who are “research intensive” were hired to write grants and oversee projects that are “innovative and contribute to the field.”

“Typically, the more people you have at the table, the better questions you’re going to ask,” she said. “You’re going to get different perspectives on how to design your study, and when you get to looking at the results, the analysis is going to be richer because you have different perspectives from different disciplines.”

Batchelor-Murphy said her current research focuses on Alzheimer’s disease and specific feeding techniques that can help older adults.

Nursing experts said cross-collaborative projects can be more competitive and more likely to receive funding.

Janet Schneiderman, a research associate professor and the chair of nursing at the University of Southern California, said that while cross-collaboration for nursing research can improve future patient care, there are often budget and funding-related setbacks that can arise when schools work together on a project, which might require research teams to pursue outside funding.

“When a university has revenue-centered management, each school’s budget is separate from other schools so sometimes issues arise in grant funding and collaboration around courses,” Schneiderman said in an email.

The strategic plan for GW’s nursing school pushes for a greater emphasis on research, which has led to additional faculty and scientist hires with research backgrounds. Officials also said a greater emphasis on research could bring in more external research dollars for the nursing school, allowing faculty and students to pursue more clinical research in their fields as nursing research grows on the national level.

Barbara Bates-Jensen, a nursing professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said competitive research universities focus on collaborative projects across multiple schools or organizations.

“Nursing schools should always focus on research just as an engineering school or chemistry school should focus on research as this is the way to provide new science to the discipline,” Bates-Jensen said in an email.

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