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Faculty members publish series on innovative nursing research

RELEASED: April 29, 2010

Dr. Susan Moch
Dr. Susan Moch

EAU CLAIRE — A three-part article series authored by two members of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire faculty and published in the Journal of Professional Nursing describes an innovation that partners undergraduate nursing students with practicing nurses to integrate scientific evidence into health care practice. The focus, based on extensive research by Dr. Susan D. Moch, professor of nursing, is on removing traditional barriers and better serving patients by implementing care — supported by best current evidence from biomedical research methods — faster.

Moch and Dr. Ruth Cronje, associate professor of English, have collaborated on the evidence-based practice movement in health care, with Moch providing opportunities for students and Cronje synthesizing the theoretical information to help spread the word about the paradigm shift. According to Moch, many UW-Eau Claire nursing faculty members are now incorporating informatics into their teaching through regular nursing courses as well.

"I've been doing research for about 25 years, and early on I started to wonder what good it is to do research if it doesn't have any use," Moch said.

She was doing breast cancer research in the early 1990s when she approached practicing nurses about reading her research findings to determine if they would be open to employing new methods in the field after reading about them. Moch said she discovered that nurses were "hungry for this information" and open to putting it into practice. The problem was that they didn't have access to research articles. That's when Moch decided that nursing students who are closer to current research studies could be the catalysts for change. Since then, she has devoted most of her attention to getting research into practice.

"The reality is that it can take 17-20 years to get research into practice," Moch said. "People assume it gets there as soon as new information comes out, but it doesn't."

By immersing students who have experience in evidence-based practice into a clinical environment, everyone benefits. Their collaboration with practicing nurses gives students the opportunity to share information or offer to find research on topics of interest to nursing staff. Older nursing curricula did not incorporate informatics as a nursing skill. Therefore, many practicing nurses don't know where to go for research information or how to critically assess multiple sources and findings. They also may not have the time to do it.

"Our students have the time and they want to do it," Moch said. "Our course requires it now, so our students are motivated to take on these roles. And eventually, as students become nurses, they will be the instruments of change because they have this experience and knowledge."

Jessica Branson, a 2008 nursing graduate of UW-Eau Claire, works at UW Hospitals and Clinics in Madison. She was Moch's research assistant and spent time assisting practicing nurses.

"It was exciting to help out a nurse," said Branson, who admits that it can be intimidating to question a more experienced nurse or offer new treatment ideas based on research.

"But once you show them how to use the search engine and that this powerful information is at their fingertips, they can be won over," Branson said.

Branson believes the shift to evidence-based practice will be gradual due to generational and technology gaps among nurses, but if nurses start questioning how they do things and seek information, the shift will be significant.

"We can come up with better ways to care for patients and get better outcomes for them if we are aware of and open to research findings," she said. Branson is working toward a doctor of nursing practice degree and cites Moch as her inspiration to be a teacher someday.

Moch wants practitioners to appreciate the valuable result of research-informed practice: that nurses will start thinking that research findings could help them with challenging situations.

"This will at least make them realize they could benefit from more information — that they may need to do something different for a particular patient and that new research findings could help," she said.

"Evidence-based practice puts the spotlight on issues of scientific validity and patient preferences," Cronje said. "There's lots of uncertainty out there. The evidence-based practice movement offers procedures that let clinicians recognize exactly what there is research to support and what is still unknown. That way, they can work with their patients to make informed decisions about care."

The articles by Moch and Cronje were published in the January 2010 issue of the journal and are titled "Undergraduate Nursing Evidence-Based Practice Education: Envisioning the Role of Students"; "Empowering Grassroots Evidence-Based Practice: A Curricular Model to Foster Student-Enabled Practice Change"; and "Reenvisioning Undergraduate Nursing Students as Opinion Leaders to Diffuse Evidence-Based Practice in Clinical Settings." Branson collaborated on the first article.

For more information about evidence-based practice in health care professions and nursing education at UW-Eau Claire, contact Dr. Susan D. Moch at 715-836-4889 or smoch@uwec.edu.

-30-

RD/DW/AH

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