Nurses have a distinct worldview and approach to patient and family care that is not reflected in other specialties. Nurses are the providers who spend the most time with patients, so they are the ones who see the issues and questions that arise. And they are the ones who often generate clinical research ideas to be explored by people like Anne Ersig, PhD, RN, a nurse researcher in the Center for Pediatric Nursing Research and Evidence Based Practice at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Cornerstone asked Dr. Ersig to share her thoughts on being a new member of this team and why research-based practice has become so important to pediatric healthcare in recent years.
Why did you choose to pursue pediatric nursing research, and how long have you been involved?
I never thought I would have a career in nursing research; my original goal was to remain in clinical practice. However, it turned out that my tendency to constantly question and desire to learn more about many different topics was ideally suited to a career in nursing research.
My interests were initially piqued through working with families whose children were diagnosed with genetic conditions. To pursue this, I decided that the best way to explore all of the different questions I had, was by getting a PhD in nursing with a focus in genetics. I started the PhD program at the University of Iowa in the fall of 2003, finished in 2008, and have been in academia for the past seven and a half years.
I left academia and sought this position at CHOP because I wanted to be able to concentrate on nursing research, and I really wanted to be in a setting that was much closer to the clinical side of things. I’m fortunate to have landed in a place that provides both of these things!
What do you hope to accomplish in your new position here at CHOP?
At CHOP, I get to work with some of the best nurses I have ever met, in addition to pursuing my own research interests. I knew that this was a strength of CHOP since I worked here as a staff nurse for a few years following my college graduation, but the last few months have shown me just how exceptional CHOP nurses are. They are truly engaged with the patients and families, and they care deeply about making sure that the care they are providing is based in evidence and leads to the best possible outcomes for those patients and families.
At the same time, this position allows me to pursue my own research interests, which focus on biological and genomic variation related to chronic stress and anxiety, particularly among individuals with chronic health conditions and their families. I have developed relationships with researchers in the Center for Applied Genomics, and I am hoping to use the CHOP BioBank to pursue some preliminary analyses. Finally, I am hoping to bring these two areas together and develop some genomics education programming for CHOP nurses.
What do you see as some of the strengths of the pediatric nursing research at CHOP?
Being immersed in the clinical setting here at CHOP is like a dream for a pediatric nurse researcher. Cutting edge treatments, conditions that are not seen in other children’s hospitals, a truly exceptional group of nurses and advanced practice nurses who have the best interests of the patients and families at heart, other providers and administrators who value and support pediatric nursing research … what else could I ask for?
The opportunities here are unparalleled. My challenge is going to be focusing on a few projects at a time, rather than trying to take everything on at once.
I am so lucky to be working with the other nurse researchers and staff in the Center for Nursing Research. Over the past 10years, they have done an amazing job advancing nursing research and evidence-based practice here at CHOP. They welcomed me with open arms and have helped me start to find my way as a clinically-based nurse researcher.
Tell us about the Nursing Research and Evidence Based Practice Day that you helped coordinate in May. What were some of the highlights?
The best part for me was seeing all of the posters that the nurses shared during the day, as well as the presentations. CHOP nurses are exceptional, and they are extensively involved in research and evidence-based practice projects throughout the hospital.
That they were able to achieve these outcomes in a time of extremely high census and high acuity just highlights that they are head and shoulders above the rest. I was absolutely fascinated by some of the topics and ideas — things that I would never think of but that are critically important to examine. CHOP nurses explored a wide variety of topics, which included the patient and family experience, nurse-led interventions to reduce pain, safety-related outcomes, and many others. A complete list of the poster presentations is available on our intranet site.
And, of course, I came away from the event with some new ideas myself!
Why is it important for nurses to participate and offer a unique perspective in pediatric research?
It is essential that nurses at all levels participate in nursing research activities to ensure that their unique voices and perspectives are heard and acknowledged. Working with nurses, I can learn what the most important questions are to answer based on what they’re seeing in practice. We can develop projects that are not only cutting edge, but also highly clinically relevant. Without that connection, it’s entirely possible that I would come up with irrelevant or impractical research ideas. It’s wonderful when nurses come up with their own ideas for research and evidence-based practice projects, and reach out to us for assistance — it the reason we’re here! Any nurses with ideas that they want to discuss further should get in touch with the Center to determine how we can help develop those.
How does the Center for Pediatric Nursing Research and Evidence Based Practice facilitate nursing research efforts at CHOP?
The Center provides a substantial amount of support for nursing research and evidence-based practice here at CHOP. We help nurses identify ideas for projects, review abstracts for conferences or applications for funding, ensure their involvement in our own research activities, provide access to resources such as journal articles, and many other things. We’re here to build and grow nursing research and evidence-based practice here at CHOP, and our unique contributions will be evident in the significant advances we accomplish to improve the care of children and their families.