My job

‘Focus, read and be curious’

ELIZABETH ROSSER is professor of nursing and deputy dean (education) at Bournemouth University. Her research interests are in the area of workforce development in health and social care. Elizabeth is president of the Phi Mu chapter (England) of Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI), which recently hosted its inaugural conference in Bournemouth.

When and why did you develop an interest in research?

In my early years as a nurse, much of nurses’ work was underpinned by custom and practice. After working in a village in Colombia, South America, with few resources to support the care that we delivered, I returned to the UK hungry for knowledge and understanding. As I moved from practice to education, I was keen to understand what evidence supported the decisions being made. My real interest in research arose after completing my master’s programme in 1991. I had several publications by then and was fired up to explore the questions I had about practice, and I was committed to disseminate through publication.

Who has been most influential in your career as a nurse and as a researcher?

I have worked with some excellent role models, individuals who were not afraid to lead, in spite of the challenges they

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When and why did you develop an interest in research?

In my early years as a nurse, much of nurses’ work was underpinned by custom and practice. After working in a village in Colombia, South America, with few resources to support the care that we delivered, I returned to the UK hungry for knowledge and understanding. As I moved from practice to education, I was keen to understand what evidence supported the decisions being made. My real interest in research arose after completing my master’s programme in 1991. I had several publications by then and was fired up to explore the questions I had about practice, and I was committed to disseminate through publication.

Who has been most influential in your career as a nurse and as a researcher?

I have worked with some excellent role models, individuals who were not afraid to lead, in spite of the challenges they faced. As a teacher, those who continue to challenge and ask questions are the ones who stimulate us to stretch the boundaries of nursing knowledge and who will help nursing continue to seek ways to enhance patient care.

What impact could the Phi Mu chapter of STTI have on nursing research?

I feel highly privileged to have this leadership role for the development of the first chapter in England. With our global network, and its focus on leadership and scholarship for practice, STTI could help us be a voice for nursing, to express a professional perspective when others have failed. The time is right to develop a critical mass of nurse leaders and scholars who can influence research for patient care. We have such opportunity in the chapter, with our colleagues in the European STTI and globally to take research forward.

You have published extensively on workforce issues, where do you think the focus of research should be in this field?

Research should focus on three distinct areas: Security of supply To ensure that we have enough professionals in the right place with the right skills, at the right time, we need to keep educating for the future. We need to understand the demographics and impending shortfalls, as well as understanding why nurses decide to leave the profession through wastage and migration.

Efficiency and effectiveness of delivery With ongoing service reconfiguration, we need to explore what is successful and what is not. As new roles develop we need to understand more about what nurses are doing, what needs changing as well as how to change.

Career development Nurses work in many environments outside the NHS. We need to consider the wider nursing workforce and how we can best prepare and support them. We have a large clinical research workforce, who work in education, practice, leadership and management.

Of the research you have published, which has been the most influential and why?

‘The assessment of competence in clinical practice’ and ‘The development of critical thinking and decision-making in practice’ were two studies which, in the 1980/90s, challenged existing thinking and paved the way for future work. They continue to help me in my leadership role in education.

Which of your achievements has given you the most satisfaction?

The lessons I learned in the six years I spent in Colombia changed my way of thinking and encouraged me to challenge everything I do.

What research projects are you working on at the moment?

I am working with a team at Bournemouth University to evaluate our Humanisation curriculum to explore its influence on shaping the caring values of student nurses. I am also working with STTI Europe to seek European funding for workforce research as well as with the European Academy of Caring Science in relation to the humanisation and transcultural agenda. I have ten PhD students and each one of them stimulates almost daily discussions about issues for nursing.

What tips would you give someone new to research in nursing?

Focus, read and be genuinely curious. Enjoy the journey and be prepared to take on any aspect of the project that you can. All aspects are important and all partnerships are valuable. Seek out experienced teams and be prepared to learn from them. Collaborative working can be challenging so be prepared to put more effort in and you will be rewarded. Understand that each team member will have different peaks and troughs to your own. Commit to publish in well respected journals.

What does the future have in store for nursing research?

Given the recent reputation battering and tough financial climate, I am convinced that nursing will rise out of the ashes of the recent scandals stronger and more accountable. Research, scholarship and leadership will play a role; all issues that STTI stands for. Embedding research into the undergraduate curriculum and enhancing the visibility of professors will encourage a strong clinical research workforce. The all-graduate intake is just the beginning, nurses will stand as equal partners in the care setting equipped with the knowledge and values to enhance the patient experience. I am excited about nursing’s future.

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