Outcomes Research

New Opportunities for Nurse Development

Nursing Science Team Offers Houston Methodist Nurses a Chance to Grow in Research and Education

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A nurse scientist is a nurse who has obtained a PhD in nursing or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice, as well as the commensurate advanced training in a specific clinical specialty area. They provide leadership in the development, coordination and management of clinical research studies; provide mentorship for nurses in research; lead evaluation activities that improve outcomes for patients participating in research studies and contribute to the health sciences literature. Nursing science as a concept has existed in academia for decades, but it has been slow to integrate into healthcare systems. At Houston Methodist, the role was created in 2019 at the Center for Nursing Research, Education and Practice (CNREP). In 2022, CNREP increased its staff of nurse scientists. Such a program is relatively rare in the Texas Medical Center. “We've been able to show a huge increase in the amount of research that nurses are leading or conducting themselves, as well as a huge increase in the number of evidence-based practice initiatives and quality improvement projects that have been led by a nurse scientist. We saw such a wonderful increase and positive outcomes that we are expanding our cadre of nurse scientists,” said Nicole Fontenot, DNP, who was the first nurse scientist hired by CNREP.
We've been able to show a huge increase in the amount of research that nurses are leading or conducting themselves, as well as a huge increase in the number of evidence-based practice initiatives and quality improvement projects that have been led by a nurse scientist. We saw such a wonderful increase and positive outcomes that we are expanding our cadre of nurse scientists.”
Nicole Fontenot, DNP
“Houston Methodist is certainly unique in that we have a whole department of nurse scientists. Most healthcare systems, if they have such a nurse scientist, they usually cover the entire system or several hospitals. The fact that we have a whole team of nurse scientists is very unique,’ said Fontenot. The five nurse scientists on staff at Houston Methodist offer a diverse range of experiences and expertise. Together, they have more than 80 years of experience, 16 degrees, seven nursing certifications and dozens of publications. This team advances nursing through engagement in nursing inquiry activities, including evidence-based practice, research and quality or process development. The team is available to partner with on-staff nurses to:
  • Design evidence-based practice and quality improvement initiatives
  • Research study design
  • Guidance through the project approval process
  • Write PICOT questions
  • Finding and evaluating the latest literature
  • Analyzing data
  • Writing abstracts
  • Creating poster presentations
  • Manuscript writing
  • Best practice advice
“One aspect that's really unique about our team of nurse scientists is that half the team holds a research-focused PhD degree- and the other half hold a practice-focused DNP degree. Our cross-disciplinary team is adept at the whole cycle of translation, from generating new evidence to translating the data into clinical practice. It creates this exciting synergy that empowers us to tackle problems from multiple perspectives to devise an optimal solution or help a nurse with a robust process because we have brains that are trained in different ways that are looking at the problems,” said Fontenot. The team currently is conducting research on meaningful recognition and healthy work environments, focusing on how to make the working environment for nurses as healthy as possible for them with respect to teamwork and communication. An area of focus for this research is meaningful recognition. The team is investigating how nurses hope to be, or feel, recognized. The team also is collaborating with Rice University to conduct research centered on robotics-assisted nursing. The team received funding from the National Science Foundation to explore ways to utilize and integrate robots in nursing. To contact the Nursing Science team, send email to NursingScience@houstonmethodist.org.
Erin Graham
January 2023
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