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Symposium highlights nursing research: encouraging a research culture is the aim of Waikato DHB's new nursing research and development unit.

A NURSING symposium held at Waikato Hospital last December was an opportunity to highlight the importance of nursing research and the ongoing collaboration between the district health board's (DHB) recently established nursing research and development unit and Victoria University of Wellington. The day's theme was Supporting clinical practice through education, research and practice development.

Unit director and clinical professor of nursing (a joint appointment between the DHB and Victoria University), Ken Walsh, said the day was an opportunity to further develop the DHB's research and development culture, and for nurses and academics to hear keynote speaker Brenda Paton. Paton is assistant professor at Canada's University of Calgary's Faculty of Nursing. She formerly practised in Waikato Hospital's acute setting, taught nursing at the Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec) and has recently completed her PhD through Victoria University.

Over 70 nurses attended the forum: half were DHB employees, the others from academic institutions. It was opened by the DHB's Maori Health Unit pou herenga Kingi Turner and supported by the DHB, Wintec, NZNO and Victoria University.

Paton's opening address "The perfect storm: Challenges in professional nursing practice" highlighted pressures in the health care market and the challenges and choices nurses need to consider to "stay afloat, amidst the confusion". "Nurses are being challenged to 'stay afloat', to survive in an environment that has been crippled from health reforms, financial strife, advanced technology and severity in illness, infectious and chronic diseases, an aging general population and an aging nursing population," she said. Paton drew on her perceptions of the impact on nursing of the first readily transmissible disease to emerge in the 21st century in Canada, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Nurses needed to identify how they could best respond to the fear and risks of infectious diseases on their profession. They also had to balance their professional agenda of caring for people, with their need to care for each other. Establishing closer ties between the education and practice settings was a helpful strategy, she said.

A presentation by Walsh and clinical nurse leader Julie Dickson focused on the clinical practice development model in Waikato Hospital's orthopaedic inpatient area. This showed the elements of autonomy, expertise, collaboration and leadership in everyday practice. A presentation by nurse practitioner primary health care--Maori, Janet Maloney-Moni, brought to light the practice expertise and contextual wisdom represented within her role.

Wintec faculty research co-ordinator Trish Wright and Waikato Community Hospice Trust paediatric palliative care nurse Cynthia Ward portrayed the place of research in everyday community practice by describing their endeavour to resolve practical problems through collaborative research projects. These leaders have modeled a passion for nursing and compassion for others through the development of a collaborative research project called "Parents and whanau experiences of the palliative care of their children: An Aotearoa/New Zealand study". This was followed by an energetic presentation by the DHB's operations nurse manager Suzie Gardner and clinical nurse educator Bridget Killion who identified some relevant research strategies for questioning and resolving everyday practice issues. Wintec BN programme manager Padraig O Luanaigh chaired a panel discussion involving all speakers. This added clarity to inquiry-based learning in clinical practice and the role of research and education in practice development.

In her final address, Paton appealed to the notion of "nurseship" through a description of one particular patient care episode. "We talk about friendship, partnership, relationship, mentorship and comradeship, as positive nouns to describe a form of collegiality, respect, understanding and commitment towards and amongst each other. Nurseship is about nurse care, a space for self care that enables nurses to sustain their practice amidst the turbulence of the storm."

A one-day evidence-based practice forum followed the symposium. In her opening address, Paton identified the timeliness of the evidence-based practice approach, especially when considering the aging population, the increased need for health services, the progression in technology and the rising expectations of patients in relation to access, high-quality services and compensation in the case of human error. "This approach represents a model of decision making that instills accountability and acknowledges the expertise and skill represented in everyday nursing practice." A wide range of concurrent sessions showcased research undertaken by nurses and midwives within their practice settings.

Walsh hopes the symposium will become an annual event. "The research and development unit continues to seek opportunities to highlight the importance of nursing research," he said. "We currently run fortnightly, half-hour, lunchtime research seminars within the clinical areas. Next year, we will host an international clinical practice development conference in collaboration with Victoria University, Australia's Monash University and the Royal College of Nursing UK."
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Title Annotation:conference report
Author:Manchester, Anne
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Date:Feb 1, 2004
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