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09 Aug 2017
Press Release

Nursing research alliance

  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre
  • Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • Cancer Nursing Society of Australia

Nursing research alliance proposed to tackle optimising patient care

The importance of health services research is central to the McKeon Review of Health and Medical Research and has been recognised by the MRFF. As nurses provide the majority of a patient’s hospital care, nursing underpins the quality of patient experience and outcomes. Nurses constantly question and seek to improve practices, but a lack of a research culture in the nursing sector, the degree of clinical workload and lack of institutional support for nursing practice research limit the requisite structured investigational studies. The appointment of the VCCC Research & Education Lead in Cancer Nursing, Prof Mei Krishnasamy, seeks to address this deficit in nursing research and enhance collaborative studies through the aegis of the alliance partners. Senior nursing executives across all VCCC partners have confirmed their desire to enhance nurse-led research and a plan to enhance nursing research capability has been prioritised in the VCCC strategic research plan.

A first initiative in this regard has been to test whether a research project, developed at Peter Mac by Prof Krishnasamy, with colleagues Drs Donna Milne and Karla Gough and with support from the Cancer Nursing Society of Australia, could be expanded across the VCCC partner hospitals. The researchers developed a cancer care complexity index in order to identify and triage patients with complex care needs to a nurse with the requisite expertise to pre-empt, assess and intervene with their problems. It is theorised that referring only the more complex cases to more experienced and research-capable nurses would decrease their case load and free up time for research activity, while simultaneously improving the quality of patient care. Preliminary positive findings now require rigorous testing via a clinical trial. A VCCC-wide collaborative nursing research project may benefit all partners and provide the foundation for future cooperative nursing research connections.

To introduce the concept and enable scrutiny and debate, a half-day workshop entitled “Understanding Patient Complexity to Inform Specialist Cancer Nursing Workload” was held at the VCCC on 9 August for twenty invited senior nursing colleagues from across the VCCC. They heard from the researchers about the design methodology and details behind the complexity index. Attendees responded positively to the concept and extensive discussions ensued, regarding what a broader collaborative investigation would entail and next steps. The meeting was also addressed by the Victorian Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer, Ann Maree Keenan, who spoke compellingly of the central role for nurses in achieving the best patient outcomes and for the sector to raise its research endeavour to this end. A follow up meeting will be held in October.

Author: Dr Elizabeth Johnson, Program Manager