Influence Through Clinical Research Mentoring: Willing, But Am I Able?

Monday, 30 October 2017: 2:45 PM

Kathleen Schell, PhD
School of Nursing, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA

The increase in hospitals seeking designation as Magnet or pursuing Magnet re-designation results in more nurses involved in research and evidence-based practice (Wilson, Kelly, Reifsnider, Pipe, & Brumfield, 2013). In a national survey of hospital nursing research (Kelly, Turner, Speroni, McLaughlin & Guzzetta, 2013), availability of research mentors was the top facilitator for Magnet and non-Magnet hospitals. Although one or two PhD-prepared nurse research facilitators may be part of the hospital infrastructure, there is limited time to mentor each fledgling staff nurse investigator or team. Identifying and inviting masters-prepared nurses to mentor is a logical approach to this growing institutional need. These nurse leaders typically have completed statistics, research and evidence-based practice coursework during their graduate education and may have conducted research with colleagues. However, many are not seasoned researchers and hesitate to become research mentors. They are willing but question their ability to do so.

The purpose of this session is to discuss essential elements of a research mentoring program in the clinical setting. Educating and supporting the prospective mentor is a crucial first step. Qualifications of research mentors and components of a mentoring agreement are delineated (Eller, Lev & Feurer, 2014). Mentors must know that the hospital’s doctorally-prepared nurse research facilitator or academic nurse researchers are available to refresh knowledge and skills, offer resources and provide consultation as needed.

Research mentors assist the new investigator to select and appraise the best evidence to develop a relevant and realistic research question and then select a fitting methodology. This daunting step can squelch the novice’s enthusiasm so building a research team of staff nurses/interdisciplinary colleagues can ease the burden. Medical librarians and statisticians are an integral part of the team (Brannan, Dumsha, & Yens, 2013). Ethics in human subject research must be emphasized. Maintaining appropriate role boundaries, particularly if conducting research on the novice investigator’s own unit, should be discussed. Gaining access to prospective subjects includes frequent communication and negotiating with administrators and healthcare colleagues. Because new investigators often neglect to consider the human and financial resources required to conduct a study (Brannan et al., 2013; White, 2012), mentors can help develop contacts, timelines and suggestions for possible small grant applications.

Research mentors strive to minimize common pitfalls encountered by novices during study implementation. Inter-rater reliability checks and data collection practice runs help novice investigators to anticipate potential problems and formulate alternatives. Research mentors provide support but must be careful not to take over during challenges such as not meeting subject enrollment goals. Mentors learn to role model how to work with the statistician in order to appropriately answer the research question/s. Celebrating successes should be a routine part of mentor-mentee meetings. Evaluation of research product dissemination as well as psychosocial and career-related outcomes of clinical research mentoring is important for both mentor and mentee success (Eller et al., 2014; Green & Jackson, 2014; Pfund, Byars-Winston, Branchaw, Hurtado, & Eagan, 2016) as well as to advance the research mission of the institution.