My summer schedule is a bit different from most of my colleagues, because I am teaching an online undergraduate nursing course until the end of June, and, in my role as MAL Coordinator of Scholarship Initiatives, work closely with graduate students while they are on campus in June/July. I do not have that unfettered feeling just yet! But, just the same, academic life is less structured this time of year (check out the sandals all around as testament to this mood) and that itself is restorative.
A couple of themes I'll be tracking with this blog: my research projects (our SPIRIT project about culture, religion, and spirituality in health care; our Innovative Clinical Placements project; and my UBC Research collaborations); preparations for the launch of our MSN program in 2009; and some commentary on nursing issues and health-related topics as presented in the media. In the midst of this, a week on the beach in Parksville, a road trip to Winnipeg, and later in August a few days of meetings in California.
I'll "chat" a bit about my research projects as I'm immersed there just now. Research as an avenue to generating knowledge is part of the mandate of a university and nurse academics undoubtedly "get" the importance of research to improving health and quality of life for all citizens. One of the cool things about nursing research is that we cross the spectrums of health and sickness, age, and every thinkable demographic. This makes for a lot of variety in what our research projects look like. So here is a sampling of what nursing research can look like, based on my projects:
1. The Negotiation of Religious and Spiritual Plurality in Health Care. This project is funded by SSHRC, a national funding agency, and we have interviewed health care professionals (social workers, nurses, doctors), spiritual care providers (who used to be referred to as chaplains), administrators, and patients/families. We're learning a lot about the role of spirituality and religion during illness, and how many staff are very good at supporting patients and families by "caring spiritually". We are also learning that spirituality and religion can be quite political, and sometimes patients are judged on the basis of their religious affiliation. We seeing tensions between presumed secularism and the strong religiosity that many newcomers to Canada come with. All fascinating stuff, and we've been so honored to hear people's stories. We've spoken to more than sixty people with this project and now we are analyzing the data and preparing manuscripts and reports.
2. Partnerships with Aboriginal Communities: Prevention of Type II Diabetes with Children and Youth. This project, conducted at Seabird Island, a Sto'lo First Nations community near Hope, has had our researcher, Dr. Sonya Sharma, hanging out with the youth, and making a dvd about health and diabetes prevention. The dvd will be edited over the summer, for launch in the fall when the students return. The elders of the community have also had wonderful input into our project, as we've been part of some intergenerational storytelling.
3. Knowledge Translation for Culturally Safe Care. I've been an investigator with a research collaborative from UBC for many years, working on projects related to the hospitalization and help-seeking experiences of diverse ethnocultural communities. The most recent project has had us take our findings from these different projects and "translate" them back to practice. This has not been an easy task, partly due to the nature of the knowledge that is not as easily packaged into "clinical pathways" or clinical practice guidelines, but rather involves nurses examining their own values and beliefs and how these shape the care they give. I'll be in meetings all day tomorrow up at UBC with colleagues as we also work to write up the research reports from this project.
4. Innovative Clinical Placements. We have a very grassroots program of research at TWU on clinical placements. I say "grassroots" because before our nursing program was well established, we need to be very creative in where students had their practicums because we did not have full access to the public health units. We soon found that students preferred these placements, so we went about finding out why this was so. From an early pilot study in 2001 that looked at why our students preferred rural and parish settings for their placements, we've completed several other projects, most recently a national survey on innovative clinical placements. We are now running another pilot project this summer to learn from the host agencies about what their experiences are having nursing students. I should also say that all nursing programs are struggling to find sufficient clinical placements, so our research is highly relevant.
OK, enough chatting here, I'd better get on to this writing I'm supposed to be doing!