Research internships help Brisbane nurses improve patient care

Five Brisbane nurses have combined frontline work with gaining new research skills at QUT, thanks to a new internship program run by QUT and Metro North Health.

The registered nurses are completing the inaugural 12-month Metro North Nursing and Midwifery Research Intern Scholarships in July, with more internships set to be offered later this year.

The scholarships have allowed the nurses to spend one day a week leading clinical research in their workplace under the guidance of nursing research mentors from QUT and Metro North.

They have investigated day-of-surgery cancellations, the outcomes for stroke patients after clot removal, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence for older people undergoing rehab, and home nasal therapy for people with chronic lung conditions.

Professor Clint Douglas from the QUT School of Nursing coordinates the program and is also Nursing Chair at the Metro North Hospital and Health Service.

He said the internships were enabling nurses from northside Brisbane hospitals to develop their skills in research, alongside their clinical roles, with the aim of improving patient care and building a research culture among nurses.

“This initiative was about bringing together frontline nurses from Metro North – who had great ideas for practice development – with experienced nursing researchers from QUT to support and guide and coach them through the research process over a 12-month journey,” he said.

He said the program had helped build hospital-university partnerships, and provided professional development and career progression opportunities, and a potential pathway to postgraduate study.

QUT Adjunct Professor Alanna Geary is Metro North’s Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer and said the first internships had produced “amazing results from five absolutely incredible individuals”.

“I’d like to congratulate each and every one of them and I look forward to continuing the program in 2021/22,” she said.

Prince Charles Hospital clinical nurse Imelda Chua studied nursing in Singapore and was trained as a perioperative nurse, before moving to Australia in 2015 and working in hospitals in Canberra and Launceston, then relocating to Brisbane in 2019.

She completed her research internship while working at The Prince Charles as a pre-anaesthetic assessment nurse, which involves the case management of patients with complex and chronic conditions on the elective surgery wait list.

“My research is about day-of-surgery cancellations and understanding the reasons and why and how patients have their operations cancelled on the day of their surgery,” she said.

“I have found that about one in 20 patients are affected by day-of-surgery cancellations.

“The research is really important to me because I work with patients on a day-to-day basis and I see how it really affects them emotionally and economically.”

Ms Chua was mentored by QUT nursing lecturer Dr Judy Munday and QUT Professor of Nursing Jed Duff, who is also Chair of Nursing at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH).

“I want to see our interns become mentors for generations of nurse researchers, to really build the capacity of Metro North for nursing research,” Professor Duff said.

“Imelda has achieved amazing results in 12 months.

“She’s learnt about research, but she’s also conducted research that will benefit her hospital, her patients and the broader healthcare community.”

Jill Davis is a QUT nursing graduate who has worked at RBWH for seven years and is also completing her research internship this month.

She is a clinical nurse in medical imaging at the RBWH and works with stroke patients who are undergoing minimally invasive surgery to remove clots from their brain.

“Part of my job is data collection on patient outcomes and what I wanted to do was put that data in a database so that we could analyse what we were collecting,” she said.

Ms Davis said research in patient outcomes was important and a natural area of interest for nurses, as they were connected to patients’ lived experiences.

“Medically, doctors concentrate on: Did they get the clot out, did they restore flow? Nurses are more interested in: Can that patient walk, can they feed themselves, how’s it going to impact their life, how’s it going to impact their job?”

Ms Davis was mentored by QUT Professor of Nursing Samantha Keogh and Dr Nicole Marsh, the Nursing and Midwifery Director of Research at RBWH.

“Both of my mentors have been really amazing,” Ms Davis said.

“They’ve been able to tell me how to research, what it is, where I need to start, all the things I need to consider … and the importance of doing good research – because there is bad research.”

Professor Keogh said Ms Davis had a very strong clinical background when she started the internship, but now had also built up a strong understanding of research and research methods.

“Jill will be able to apply what she’s learnt to her workplace,” Professor Keogh said.

“She’ll be able to build a registry and follow up on patients after their procedures, which will be invaluable to the hospital.”

Nurses interested in applying for the next round of Metro North Nursing and Midwifery Research Intern Scholarships can follow updates here.

QUT nurse researchers have a strong record in Australian and international research. They include cancer and palliative care researchers Professor Jane Phillips and Professor Ray Chan, who were inducted into the Sigma International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame in July.

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