Mutual Transformation: A Process of Community Engagement, Change and Sustainable Relationships Through Research

Wednesday, 1 August 2012: 4:10 PM

Rick Zoucha, PhD, APRN-BC, CTN-A
School of Nursing, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA

Purpose: When the community, researchers, faculty and students in nursing come together as partners in the promotion of health and well being through research, the outcomes are not one sided.  If all involved are committed to the process of engagement then change is imminent.  Research is a process of inquiry and does not happen in a vacuum but rather in the real world, with real and meaningful results.  Historically, nursing and others have entered communities with great intentions for research and ultimately making life healthier for the people in that community.  Unfortunately, for many communities, when the research is over so is the relationship.  Globally there are disparities of health in many vulnerable communities without access to health and little hope of wellbeing.

The focus of this presentation will be on the integration of research, nursing education, and multi-disciplinary practice through community engagement and action research.  Examples will be drawn from three major community engaged studies in which the author was involved: African American, urban Nicaraguan, African immigrant and refugee communities.  

Methods: The process involved an institutional and individual commitment to understanding vulnerability, respecting cultural diversity and promoting social justice.  Researchers worked with members of the community as co-researchers in identifying needs and solutions that are important to the community.  After the mutually agreed on identification of ideas and solutions, students and faculty worked with community members in the promotion of health and wellbeing, one problem at a time.

Results: This approach led to a sustainable relationship with the academic institution and the community, resulting in a mutual transformation.

Conclusion: Working on one problem at a time means that over time many problems are resolved, the community is strengthened and students are better able to understand vulnerability, respect diversity and promote social justice in many clinical situations long after their student status.