It is a changed world, but researchers need to be focused and value those around them

In times like these, nurse researchers need to celebrate the value that research has in guiding healthcare policy and practice, as well as valuing their colleagues and loved ones

Research tree of knowledge
Picture: iStock

The world we find ourselves in is far from the planned celebrations for 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. From the emergence of an unknown coronavirus in China to New Zealand’s volcano eruption and the devastation of the Australian bushfires, the world has witnessed an unprecedented level of disruption.

Nurses and midwives have certainly been tested. They have provided care to large numbers of critically ill people infected with COVID-19, while supporting the health needs of the community. The emotional toll of the personal loss of loved ones and colleagues, while caring for the dying who are isolated from their family and friends, will leave a lasting mark for years to come.

Healthcare researchers have also felt the impact. Many institutions have ceased face-to-face data collection, leading some researchers to switch to non-contact methods. However, even virtual approaches may no longer be possible in many cases. Participants may be unwell, have competing work demands, or are too consumed by the stresses of social isolation.

Changing environment sets new challenges and gives fresh impetus

Others may find their current research irrevocably altered: trials of lifestyle interventions may be skewed by increased rates of alcohol consumption, poor eating habits and reduced incidental exercise due, while descriptive and exploratory studies are likely overlaid by the economic, physical and psychological impacts of the pandemic and social isolation.

At the other end of the spectrum, the changing environment has provided a new impetus for research around disaster and pandemic impact, management and recovery. While there has been a rapid proliferation in research in this space, caution should be used to ensure that it is robust and well-considered, producing high-quality outcomes while protecting participants from undue burden. It is vital that this research contributes to building up, rather than stripping bare, participating communities.

I would encourage researchers to remain focused in their work and celebrate the value that research has in guiding healthcare policy and practice. It is vital that researchers take time to truly look after themselves, their colleagues and their loved ones. We are all in the same storm but travelling in different boats, so reaching out and ensuring that each other is well supported is vital to recovery and rebuilding.

Elizabeth HalcombElizabeth Halcomb, @LizHalcomb, is professor of primary healthcare nursing, School of Nursing, University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia and editor of Nurse Researcher