Undergrads Experienced Nursing Research Career Options During Summer Program

11 February 2013

(l to r – Tracy Dowds, Jane Cipollone, Elisa Simpson, Alissa Rowe and Ashley Acott.  Not present – Karolina Gielarowiec and Sherri Bavly)

The lazy, hazy days of summer were anything but for seven dedicated undergrads at Bloomberg Nursing.  Through the Summer Undergraduate Student Research Program, these students were able to gain hands-on experience by working on projects under the supervision of a Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing researcher.

Intrigued by the program through peer information sessions and faculty endorsements, these undergrads embarked on a research experience that lasted 13 weeks.  Each participant gained new and valuable knowledge and all felt the opportunity helped to guide them toward their future nursing career goals.

“This program offered me a unique perspective on nursing care and the ways in which nursing research can positively influence care,” said Elisa Simpson.  “I also gained an appreciation for the many opportunities available to branch out from traditional bedside nursing while still contributing to patient care from a different perspective.”

Simpson and Ashley Acott worked with Dr. Lianne Jeffs, director of nursing research, St. Michael’s Hospital on a pilot project focused on nurse-to-nurse bedside shift reporting.  There they gained critical perspectives on the nursing profession, beyond the classroom, that provided them with the tools to identify and understand gaps in practice.  Simpson and Acott had the opportunity to present their work at St. Michael’s twice in September and are co-authors on a paper The Value of Bedside Shift Reporting: Enhancing Nurse Surveillance, Accountability, and Patient Safety for the scholarly nursing publication, Journal of Nursing Care Quality.  Another two papers, one that is from a patient’s perspective on nurse to nurse bedside reporting and another on enablers and barriers to implementing the nurse to nurse beside reporting have also been submitted.

“I enjoyed seeing a different side to nursing that is often not thought about during your undergraduate nursing education,” said Acott.  “Not only were we able to perform research that will directly have an impact on nurses, but we also got to meet and listen to experiences from nurses who were championing change on their unit.”

The Hospital for Sick Children is where Karolina Gielarowiec honed her research skills during the program and worked with Dr. Jennifer Stinson, clinician scientist, Child Health Evaluative Sciences.  Gielarowiec’s work to recruit youths with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) for internet-based interventions continued past the summer program and she will carry on in the role over the next few years.

Jane Cipollone worked with Dr. Doris Howell, RBC Financial Group Chair, Oncology Nursing Research and Education at Princess Margaret Hospital in the cancer care research cluster.

“To hear the perspective of nurses who are pursuing graduate studies and a career in research was invaluable,” Cipollone said.  “Learning about the clinical research process also helped me significantly in my courses when I started classes again in September.”

Over the summer, taking part in preparing a Cochrane Review, on Self-Management Interventions for Breathlessness in Adult Cancer Patients, for one of the most popular research publications, was one Cipollone’s highlights.  This exposure provided a solid introduction to the effort and detail it takes to successfully coordinate materials for this leading industry publication that showcases the highest levels of evidence.

In working with Dr. Doris Leung, assistant professor, Bloomberg Nursing, Sherri Bavly screened over 6,000 articles to find information relevant to the influence of social factors on decision-making in care for patients with chronic critical illness from acute to end-of-life in intensive care settings.  A project that has carried on past the summer, Bavly will remain as a research assistant to support the process of data extraction and critical appraisal well into 2013.

“This experience helped me gain a better understanding of what a career in nursing research looks like,” Bavly said.  “I learned a lot about the research process and enjoyed taking part in a project at the very start of the research process through the literature review.”

The summer program was a chance for Tracy Dowds to gain experience in a research capacity and see if it would fit her future career path.  Enthusiastic feedback from other students who had participated in the program was all the encouragement she needed to apply and Dowds spent her research time with Dr. Robyn Stremler, assistant professor at Bloomberg Nursing, analyzing and coding sleep actigraphy data.

“Developing my skills in analyzing and coding data will definitely benefit me throughout my nursing career,” Dowds said. “The chance to explore future nursing paths and goals was so valuable, and I would say that this program is a great starting point for someone who is thinking of getting involved in nursing research to see if it how it works.”

Alissa Rowe started the program working on nursing health systems with Dr. Ann Tourangeau, director of graduate programs at Bloomberg Nursing and not only continues to work on the research program but will a co-author on a paper emerging from this study looking at Factors Affecting Home Care Nurse Intention to Remain Employed.

“To work on a project right from the beginning and see how each step is achieved has provided me with a stronger nursing skill set,” Rowe said.  “This project not only helped me with school financially but also provided me with the knowledge that I have been able to apply in the classroom.”

The Summer Undergraduate Student Research Program runs every year and is comprised of funding from a number of sources including the University’s Life Sciences Committee, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing Bertha Rosenstandt Health Research Fund.  Applications for the 2013 program are due by Monday, March 18, 2013.  For more information on the program, please contact research.nursing@utoronto.ca