Neurology creates new resource to bring more nurses into research

By Julie Kirchem, Neurology Information Services

DALLAS - Jan. 22, 2014 - The Department of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics has developed a unique resource that will provide support, training and expertise for neuroscience nurses who are interested in conducting their own research studies.

The Neuroscience Nursing Research Center (NNRC) was established in the fall of 2013 and recently recruited its first group of nurses. The six neuroscience nurses will be trained to become principal investigators on projects aimed at improving outcomes for neuroscience patients.

Neuroscience Nursing Research Center
Neuroscience Nursing Research Center awards six fellowships to neuroscience nurses.

DaiWai Olson, R.N., Ph.D., who conducts studies as a principal investigator in conjunction with bedside nursing, is the NNRC’s director.

“Creating the NNRC is vital – it sends a message to the nursing staff that UT Southwestern doesn’t just want nurses to be aware of research -- the institution wants nurses to conduct their own research and help find real solutions that directly improve patient care,” said Dr. Olson.

He, along with Sonja Stutzman, Ph.D., Clinical Research Coordinator, and Charlene Supnet, Ph.D., Scientific Research Writer, will provide ongoing support for the nurses and their research projects.

“The NNRC provides an opportunity for nurses to answer scientific questions that affect multiple facets of neuroscience,” said Dr. Stuzman. “We aim to provide nurses with the assistance to develop, implement, and share their research.”

As part of that support, the NNRC is partnering with Caryn Harper, M.S., CCRC, of the Neuroscience Clinical Research Center (NCRC), who will assist with finding research funding.

Sue Thu, R.N., BSN, RNC, who has worked at UT Southwestern for the past ten years, is one of the six nurses selected for the NNRC’s first group of fellows. She decided to apply for the fellowship so that she could help her patients and improve nursing care.

“As nurses, we are so involved with patient care, we don’t have much time to think about research,” she said. “This will be stepping outside of my comfort zone, but I’m willing to do it because I think it will make me a better nurse. “

Applicants presented a research question that they would like to study. Thu’s question came from her daily experience as a nurse with UT Southwestern Imaging Services.

“The name of my study is 'The Waiting Room Anxiety.' Nursing care is not only about physical discomfort, we need to pay attention to a patient’s emotional and psychological discomfort,” said Thu.

Thu said she has seen patients wait for more than an hour for an appointment and wants to find out if there is a correlation between high anxiety and longer waiting room time. Her hope is that the study’s findings could lead to solutions for reducing patients’ wait times.

Michael Levy, R.N., ACNP-BC, CNRN, is also an inaugural NNRC fellow. He coordinates the outpatient brain tumor service for UTSW. His research study will help to provide a better understanding of the possible complications after Gamma Knife Radiosurgery and help guide nursing care for patients needing this treatment.

“We want to discover the incidence of local pin site inflammation following treatment of brain tumors with gamma knife radiosurgery,” said Levy. “We have noticed cases where inflammation has delayed the healing of these sites. Identifying what the incidence is will help guide us in changing the care we provide for these patients pre- and post treatment-,” said Levy.

Levy has been a nurse for twenty-two years and has contributed to research but not as a principal investigator. He says it’s important that nurses be involved in investigating, developing and implementing best practices in patient care.

“I’m very excited about the NNRC and the assistance they will be providing to nurses who want to be on the frontlines of research,” he said.

The other NNRC fellows are Max Holder, R.N., Imaging Services; Lillian Omburo, R.N., Post-Anesthesia Care Unit; April Crow, R.N., Rehabilitation; and Amy Weaver, R.N., Emergency Medicine.

The fellows will attend a one-day boot camp where they will receive guidance developing their research ideas and protocol. At the end of the boot camp, they will have a near IRB-ready research protocol in hand.

The NNRC’s support will continue until the research project is completed. Nurses will have weekly contact with a member of the NNRC to discuss progress and help move research projects forward.

“The goal is to have these projects funded and then once completed, they can be submitted for publication,” said Dr. Stuzman. 

All six of this first class of fellows came from the ranks of UT Southwestern nurses, but Dr. Olson says the NNRC will recruit from other institutions in the future.

“Our hope is that the NNRC extends far beyond UT Southwestern and becomes a world leader in promoting neuroscience nursing research.”