Mclean Hospital

On the Front Lines: Nurses and Social Workers Foster Research, Education, Collaboration from Within

May 12, 2010

Although McLean is a hotbed of psychiatric research, investigations by hospital nurses and social workers represent only a small portion of this work. As part of its strategic agenda, McLean has appointed an Interdisciplinary Research Committee to promote research and professional development among staff in these two important disciplines. “Our goal is to foster collaboration and fortify the careers of our nurses and social workers,” says Margaret Knight, PhD, APRN, co-chair of the 30-member committee.

Mark Longsjo and Kristin Beville
Mark Longsjo, LICSW, and Kristin Beville, LICSW, two members of the Interdisciplinary Research Committee

As part of this endeavor, a new educational research seminar is equipping nurses and social workers with the tools they need to become more active in research, from proposing and designing studies to writing grant proposals. According to Knight, “We are also encouraging those less well-versed in research to get involved according to their own comfort level.” Another initiative, a quarterly research forum, brings local and regional nurses and social workers to McLean to present aspects of their research or clinical work.

These practitioners offer a range of expertise, including diagnostic-specific experience, innovations in clinical practice, and research findings. “These activities add to our knowledge base and make our staff more research ready,” says Linda Flaherty, RN/PC, senior vice president of Patient Care Services. “They also give our nurses and social workers ways to think about how they can use research in their practice and collaborate across disciplines,” adds Knight.

Another initiative, a visiting scholars program, invites national and international experts to the McLean campus for multiple day visits, during which they spend time on the units and share clinical best practices and insights. Nursing’s participation in the research forum and visiting scholars program has been made possible by a $25,000 gift from the Pollinator Fund. “Nurses and social workers are doing the work of clinical care every day. It’s important for us to examine the effectiveness of what we do so that our impact on patients is supported by evidence-based practice,” says Flaherty.

According to Knight, the committee is giving a new voice to these two groups. “We need to be part of the conversation. McLean’s work in advancing social work and nursing education is allowing that to happen,” she says.