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UW-Eau Claire Nursing Faculty Collaborate
On Research With Undergraduate Students
MAILED: April 5, 2002
EAU CLAIRE — Hospitals faced with nursing shortages are offering graduate nursing students attractive jobs, leaving nursing faculty throughout the Midwest scrambling to continue research projects without graduate assistants.
As nursing faculty look for alternate ways to continue their research, many are taking note of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire School of Nursing's long history of conducting challenging health-related research using undergraduates as assistants.
"There's definitely a greater interest in undergraduate researchers," said Dr. Susan Moch, a family health nursing professor who has worked with undergraduate researchers at UW-Eau Claire for 13 years. "We've been doing this a long time so we know what these students have to offer. But to many, it's a new concept."
Moch and nursing major Jessica McDaniel shared their faculty-undergraduate student research experiences at a Midwest Nursing Research Society conference in Chicago in March.
"People loved our presentation," Moch said. "We're really jazzed about the reaction to it. People want to know exactly how we do it and how they can get it started on their campus. There was so much interest that we're putting together an article that we hope to get published."
Once conference participants heard their story, many wanted to know about funding, said McDaniel, a junior from Waupaca who has worked with Moch for three years. "People couldn't believe how supportive UW-Eau Claire is of undergraduate research," she said. "It made me realize how lucky we are that people here see its value and support it."
As the UW System's only Center of Excellence for faculty-undergraduate student research, UW-Eau Claire's Research and Sponsored Programs Office provides about $500,000 a year for undergraduate student research. The office helps fund nearly 450 research projects each year, involving more than 600 students and 360 faculty members from all disciplines. Nine nursing projects are under way this year involving faculty collaboration with 24 undergraduate students. Research efforts range from studies on "Social Networks and Risk Taking Behavior" to "Couple Interaction during Breast Cancer."
In addition to the annual UW-Eau Claire Student Research Day, the School of Nursing hosts its own Kaleidoscope of Nursing Research, a daylong conference that promotes the use of nursing research through dissemination of findings.
"Undergraduate students can do amazing things," Moch said of why she believes undergraduate research is worth the investment. "They can do almost anything if given the necessary education and support."
While many UW-Eau Claire nursing faculty work with student researchers, Moch has taken it a step further by creating a research team that includes novice, intermediate and experienced research assistants. An experienced student researcher serves as team leader.
The team concept allows students from disciplines outside of nursing to participate in health-care related projects, Moch said, noting that biology, English and business majors have been among her research assistants. It also helps students learn other important skills, such as leadership and problem-solving skills, and how to work as a team member - all things health care professionals say they look for when hiring nurses.
"It's been such a wonderful thing," McDaniel, who has presented her research at several conferences, including one in Australia, said of her involvement in research. "It's had such a huge impact on my life that I talk to classes every semester to tell them how great this can be."
Prospective employers are noticing McDaniel's research. "I've been mailing resumes for internships and they tell me they're amazed by my vita and the kinds of things I've done," said McDaniel, who accepted an internship with Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse.
The research experience also has helped McDaniel better define what's important to her in a future employer. For example, she's attracted to Gundersen Lutheran because of its emphasis on research. "That's something I wouldn't have thought about a few years ago," she said, noting that she also is considering pursuing a doctorate degree so she can teach nursing.
Inspiring students to consider teaching nursing is another benefit of the undergraduate-faculty research efforts, Moch said. With fewer nurses, it's more important than ever that academia encourage young people to consider teaching as a future profession, she said.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: April 5, 2002