Navigating Scientific Literature: Opportunities for Impact

FEATURED ARTICLE | AUGUST 30, 2016 | BY JESSICA CASTNER, PHD, RN, FAEN

Nurse researchers and students are amazing investigators. By learning how to conduct literature reviews – searching, selecting, analyzing and integrating scientific findings – they help health care providers base their practice on the best evidence and show scientists where more research is needed. And, the reviews are a great opportunity for students to nourish their specific interests. 

Here are four examples of some award-winning reviews spearheaded by ambitious nursing students pursuing their passions – and making real world impact.

1. Weight Loss in Cancer Patients

Weight loss is very common during cancer treatments. Amanda Adams, DNP student, wanted to know more about how the health care team could address nutrition to help patients maintain a healthy weight. Gathering information from several scientific databases, she is leading recommendations for best-practices in the clinical setting. She just returned from presenting at the 2016 International Nursing Research Congress Sigma Theta Tau International in Cape Town, South Africa.

2. Treating Anesthesia Patients with Low Blood Pressure

Kara Hedman and Carrie Mann, nurse anesthetist students, wanted to know more about medications to administer for hard-to-treat low blood pressure as part of their practice. Their findings and recommendations on a particular medication type, called low dose vasopressin, will be published in the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Journal – and will inform the medication decisions for a broad audience of practicing nurse anesthesia providers.

3. Including Families in End-of-Life Planning

In the difficult, end-of-life planning in the hospital, the goal is to make the patient as comfortable as possible. PhD students Suzanne Sullivan and Carleara Ferriera de Rosa Silva worked on strategies to include the family as full partners of the health care team during end-of-life planning. Working closely with their advisor, they were able to systematically integrate the current scientific evidence in the field to inform their ongoing research. They won the University at Buffalo Sigma Xi Research Award in 2014, and represented their work at the SUNY Academic Excellence Ceremony in Albany in 2015. After these presentations, they published their findings in the Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing.

4. Helping Families Cope with the Loss of a Newborn

Margaret Doerzbacher, PhD student, works to alleviate the suffering of families in one of the most heart-wrenching circumstances – when a baby is born with a condition so severe that s/he is not expected to survive. She is committed to engaging families as much as possible in every care decision for their baby. There was very little scientific literature that informed this area of care she knows needs to be improved, so we worked together to formulate a tailored literature search strategy so her project is rooted in the current evidence. She travels to Montreal this fall to share her findings at the International Congress on Palliative Care so other researchers and providers can find the most supportive ways in which to alleviate family suffering. 

One size does not fit all.

These projects are not just scholarly publications and presentations, as they translate into a foundation that provides the ability to lead innovations and improvements in nursing practice. In each of these projects, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. When there is a great deal of information available, a traditional systematic review enables students to piece together the findings and make recommendations for research and practice. When there is not yet a well-formed intervention, the students may conduct what is called an integrated or scoping review to garner a thorough sense of the scientific landscape.

With great pride, we witness nursing students transform this foundational process into profound impacts as they lead change and advance health in their research and practice.