Celebrating the Important Role of Nurse Researchers at Mass General

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From left: Gaurdia Banister, director of the Munn Center for Nursing Research, Sara Looby, a nurse scientist at the Munn Center and the keynote speaker at Nursing Research Day, and Jeanette Ives Erickson, Chief Nurse and Senior Vice President for Nursing and Patient Care Services

Attendees of the 2017 Nursing Research Day celebration at Massachusetts General Hospital on May 9 certainly had a lot to be inspired by.

The event began with a poster session featuring 45 posters submitted by nurse researchers at Mass General, and concluded with a series of engaging presentations highlighting the important role that nursing research plays in improving patient care.

“As providers, we have patient experiences that influence our careers and are truly impactful,” said keynote speaker Sara Looby, PhD, ANP-BC, FAAN.

Looby, a Nurse Scientist at the Yvonne L. Munn Center for Nursing Research at Mass General, described several such formative experiences in her own nursing career, including an interaction with a young mother who was suffering from a terminal illness. Witnessing that mother’s experience firsthand gave Looby a better understanding of the human response to illness—and the despair, grief and suffering that comes with it.

Looby said her career as a nurse researcher has been guided by the desire to find ways to help patients cope with these feelings, by providing information, support and connections to clinical trials. Many of her research projects started by understanding the needs and concerns of her patients, she explained.

“Our patients are talking. We are asking them on a daily basis how they are feeling, and they are sharing their concerns, thoughts and opinions. In doing so, they are identifying gaps in knowledge that can be solved by asking research questions.”

Looby acknowledged that nurses already have a full plate of responsibilities taking care of patients, but she encouraged them to go the extra mile to pursue research questions as well. “What more can be done? What questions are not answered?”

“Each of you makes a difference every day, small or large, independently or as a team to help patients. So don’t be afraid to share your ideas with others, and don’t be intimidated by the research process.”

Gaurdia E. Banister, RN, PhD, NEA-BC, FAAN, Director of the Munn Institute and Executive Director of the Institute for Patient Care at Mass General, spoke about the center’s 25-year effort to establish a structure for nursing research at the hospital and credited Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, DNP, NEA-BC, FAAN, the hospital’s Chief Nurse and Senior Vice President for Patient Care, for her unwavering support.

Banister noted that the nursing research posters on display during the event represented a broad cross section of interests, including non-pharmacological approaches to pain management, population-based care and strategies to manage care transitions from the hospital to the community.

She also encouraged nurses to continue their advocacy for science and medicine at a challenging time for both disciplines.

“Staying silent is no longer a luxury we can afford. We all must stand together and support science. At its core, science is a tool for seeking answers, and we must aggressively advocate for the right to do so.”

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