Here, There and Everywhere

The School of Nursing and American Family Children’s Hospital created a joint position to accelerate the research translation process. Dr. Anne Ersig works to facilitate discovery and practice improvement here in Madison and across the country.

Last May, the School of Nursing and the American Family Children’s Hospital jointly hired Anne Ersig as their first pediatric nurse scholar. The two organizations had signed an Academic Practice Partnership in 2016 to formalize their collaboration and generate new opportunities to improve nursing education, facilitate research, and advance nursing practice. The pediatric nurse scholar position is part of that strategy and intended to leverage and align the vast clinical and research leadership that exists across both organizations.

Ersig came to Madison from Pennsylvania, where she served as a nurse researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Prior to that, she was an assistant professor at the University of Iowa College of Nursing, where she earned her PhD and pursued research on the genomics of chronic stress and anxiety. As the pediatric nurse scholar, Ersig splits her time between her clinical colleagues on one side of the street and her research peers and students on the other. She answered some questions to shed some light on how her position works and fits into both organizations.

What appealed to you about the pediatric nurse scholar position?

I missed the academic environment, and I wanted time to pursue my own research. Yet I also love nursing practice. This is an opportunity to connect the two. I can help build a culture of scholarship and inquiry on the clinical side and advance science and nursing research on the academic side.

This is a new position. How did you spend your first few months here?

I spent a lot of the summer meeting with important stakeholders and learning more about the structure at the Children’s Hospital. Who’s who. What is where. I had “meet and greets” with clinical nurse specialists (CNS), nurse managers, and nurse educators across the hospital to learn more about the different units and how they operate. I also met with administrators and leaders to learn about priorities and areas of focus. I followed up with more meetings with each CNS and nurse managers from each unit. One primary purpose was to identify shared priorities and interests across the hospital, which can both form the basis for organization-wide projects and provide opportunities for connecting nursing faculty, researchers, and students from the School of Nursing with projects and teams at the hospital.

What are those priorities?

I’ve identified three priority topics at Children’s Hospital that cross over unit and specialty boundaries: (1) transitions of care; (2) teamwork, collaboration, and interprofessional communication, education, and practice; (3) stress, burnout, and resilience—in all groups, including staff, patients, and family. The priority projects are those that involve one or more of these topics.

Can you point to any specific projects within those topics that presented themselves as good opportunities for collaboration?

There are several. One doctor mentioned an interest in using mindfulness to develop resilience on her team. I also heard from a nurse manager who saw her staff struggle with stress and burnout, and she, too, wanted to find ways to build resilience. The exact language was different from unit to unit, but the desire to develop resilience was a consistent theme across the organization. We are moving forward with creating a work group to identify and evaluate evidence-based strategies that could work for the different groups. One of our Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) students, who also happens to be a practicing RN at the hospital, will be joining that work group to represent nursing and, perhaps, to determine whether it could develop into a scholarly project for the DNP program.

Another doctor expressed an interest in interprofessional education, which we embrace and promote at the School of Nursing. That led directly to an opportunity for four undergraduate nursing students to shadow the interprofessional team in the Diagnostic and Therapy Center (DTC) while their assigned preceptor was on leave. This gave them the opportunity to observe care in a less well-known clinical area. They learned not only about sedation and procedures performed on children as outpatients, but also about teamwork and collaboration and how essential those are to providing excellent care.

Has anything surprised you?

One of the biggest things is that building connections between the Children’s Hospital and the School of Nursing has been easier than I anticipated. These organizations are really ready for further, more systematic collaborations. In particular, the Children’s Hospital is totally at the right spot for this. They are established in their identity with their own building and they are growing, yet they are still at a size where they are nimble enough to implement change. They’re very interested in working with nursing faculty, students, and researchers to identify and then translate research findings into practice. This hospital is a great size to serve as an incubator for novel ideas.

Dr. Barb Byrne, vice president of clinical operations at Children’s Hospital, said one of the goals of this position is to facilitate the dissemination of findings in Madison, across the country, and beyond. That seems like a tall order. What do you think?

I agree with Dr. Byrne. If we find a way to improve care, we need to share it and share it widely. It shows commitment to all pediatric patients and their families, and it shows leadership in nursing and healthcare. But I believe it is also a fundamental aspect of nursing. Ultimately, the goal is to improve child and family health and well-being. One of the ways nurses do that is through direct patient care, patient by patient, family by family. Another way is by disseminating our discoveries so that other health systems can learn from our findings and adopt evidence-based methods that work. The School of Nursing knows how to do that, and that is one of the things it brings to the partnership.

Dean Linda D. Scott described this position as forward-thinking. What do you think she means by that, and do you agree?

The position—and the partnership that created it—aligns with the National Institute of Nursing Research’s vision for the future of science that encourages more partnership between those who are experts in generating nursing knowledge and those who are experts in translating and applying it. This is where nursing and all of healthcare are headed. Of course, translating research into practice is already happening, but it takes, on average, seventeen years. That’s way too long! The American Family Children’s Hospital and the School of Nursing are just the right size to identify innovative research findings, implement and test them in practice, and then share what we find with others. This is how we’re going to advance health care in this country—through key alliances and partnerships between the clinical and academic setting.

What are you working on next?

Right now I’m focused on learning more about pediatric scholarship and research at the School of Nursing. At Children’s Hospital, I am broadening my interactions to include nurses at all levels of practice along with other clinicians, such as social workers and child life specialists.

An integral part of UW Health, American Family Children’s Hospital is a comprehensive pediatric medical and surgical center featuring nationally recognized pediatric specialists in a wide range of fields, as well as a Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, a Transplant Surgery Program, children’s cancer service, and more.

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