Researching—and changing—your own nursing practice

One Canadian researcher is bridging the gap between research and practice in nursing with a unique program that will study the way nurses actually work—The Nursing Knowledge Translation Centre.

“Practitioners are reluctant to change their tried and true ways of responding in specific situations,” said Dr. Lesley Degner in her recent presentation at the 16th International Conference on Cancer Nursing in Atlanta. Degner, a professor and cancer nursing researcher at the University of Manitoba, proposes to study “mindlines”—the “collectively reinforced internalized tacit guidelines” followed by professionals on the job. The Centre will allow nurses to study their mindlines and quickly learn important lessons about their practice from them.

In her presentation, Degner, a gifted teacher, used the metaphor of her Osso Bucco recipe to explain how mindlines become entrenched. After walking the audience through her recipe, Degner explained that when faced with the opportunity to use a master chef's recipe for Osso Bucco, she balked because “It's not as good as mine; it can't be.” Following up, she quipped: “What's it going to take to make me try the chef's recipe?”

When the funding comes through, the Centre will take a year to build and eventually will be staffed with part-time tutors, a half-time librarian, and Degner, who will serve as principal investigator. Gathering data through a kind of journaling technique that Degner has developed, the researchers will conduct field research on mindlines in selected medical units.

According to Degner, the research will have an immediate impact on nursing practice. “Mindlines have the opportunity to stimulate that sort of thing,” Degner said. “Once you start unpacking these mindlines—and then get them to [ask], are we practicing like this?—it's their felt need driving the process.”

Degner, who has taught research for many years, wants to “demystify the research literature” for nurses. “It's very much about examining day-to-day practice,” she said.

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