McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Program involving student nurses in research wins praise

By Suzanne Morrison
Published: November 7, 2011

A McMaster University program that gives undergraduate nurses the opportunity to conduct research has received high praise from Ontario's chief nursing officer.

Debra Bournes recently lauded the pioneering efforts of McMaster's Nursing Health Services Research Unit (NHSRU) for its one-of-a-kind Undergraduate Student Research Internship Program (USRIP).

She said the McMaster program is creating opportunities for all nurses to lead their own research studies, an area many nurses shy away from despite their knowledge of patient care and the health-care system. Bournes was guest speaker at an educational showcase of the research program hosted by the research unit at McMaster's University Hall.

The internship program offers undergraduate nursing students at McMaster the chance to be involved in research that focuses on nursing workforce and patient care issues. Since its founding 20 years ago, the program has hired two or three student interns each year. 

At the event current and past interns described how their experience in the nursing research unit enhanced both their studies and their career paths.

"Being exposed to different experts was invaluable," said Erin Barwell, a former student research intern who is now a public health nurse with Hamilton Public Health Services. "Experiencing research while at university helped me see the link between research and evidence-based practice."

Current research intern and third-year nursing student Alex Pirvulescu said she is incorporating skills acquired as an intern into her problem-based learning and clinical classes.

A recent evaluation of the program, Preparing Tomorrow's Leaders Today: Investing in Capacity Building for Nursing Health Services Research, found student interns valued the opportunities the research unit gave them to collaborate with senior scientists, health-care leaders and decision-makers, including the ministry of health, as well as other students. This learning experience provided them with skills they continue to use every day, they said.

The evaluation concluded the program is a "valuable and cost-effective" approach to building research capacity and developing future health-care leaders and decision-makers.

Andrea Baumann, scientific director of the NHSRU, said she would like to see other organizations adopt this model by building more programs with research at the undergraduate level.

McMaster President Patrick Deane touched on the same subject in his recent Letter to the McMaster Community, saying: "At the undergraduate level, problem-based and self-directed learning foster a capacity for research that can only strengthen and support the university's overall commitment to discovery."

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