1. Ferrell, Betty PhD, MA, FAAN, FPCN, CHPN

Article Content


In 1989, I made a major career decision when I opted to leave the academic world in my nursing faculty role to begin a new career as a researcher in a hospital setting. It was an opportunity I could not miss as there were few research positions in clinical settings, and the City of Hope Cancer Center was a perfect match for my research interests in oncology. My colleagues in academia thought I was foolish to leave my faculty role, but I was eager for the challenge of integrating research in the clinical setting.


A few weeks into my new role, I received a telephone call from the home care nurse in the next building (historical note: a telephone call since e-mail did not exist yet!). They wanted to meet with me, "the new researcher." I was elated! So there academic colleagues!! Clinical nurses were knocking on my door eager to collaborate in research.


I wondered about what research the home care nurses might be interested in? What theoretical questions, models, hypothesis, and study designs might they need assistance with? The nurses came for our meeting and got right to the heart of their agenda. They wanted me to help them conduct a study to provide data that would help them be able to get cell phones. What? Cell phones? (Historical note 2: yes, there was a time when there were no cell phones).


I put aside my agenda of research interests and listened as these home care nurses explained all their challenges in home care including having to wait for long times in the patient's home for a physician to call back, inability to beckon the patient or family to call off the vicious looking dog in the front yard, and having to use pay phones in unsafe neighborhoods. The nurses had heard about this new thing called a cell phone that they could carry in their car and had approached hospital administration, only to be told they needed data to support their request.


And so, my clinical research career began with a study on cell phones! We designed a study and collected data on key variables such as nurse, physician, and patient satisfaction with communication and nursing time and cost associated with the lack of phone access. We gathered quantitative and qualitative data, and yes, the nurses got cell phones, which by the way were approximately the size of a large brick, had weak reception, and were carried in a case the size of a small suitcase. But it was progress!


I have now been a researcher in this clinical setting for 25 years but have never forgotten the lesson of my first study. Research must be collaborative, based on a clinical need, and ultimately improve care. I call this the "cell phone" test in evaluating potential research projects.


This issue of the journal includes the report of a Hospice & Palliative Nurses Association Research Committee charged to create a research agenda for the organization. It is an excellent report that passes the cell phone test by providing a very strong report and roadmap for future research. The report reflects current demands such as the need for information technology to address emerging concerns including demands on family caregivers, palliative care in our aging populations, as well as unprecedented opportunities for advancing evidence-based practice with new roles such as the doctor of nursing practice. Each of us, as members of Hospice & Palliative Nurses Association, owes a great thanks to the Research Committee for their work in creating this excellent report. It is an agenda to advance the science of our field, and it is also a clear description of the priorities for improving patient and family care.


Betty Ferrell, PhD, MA, FAAN, FPCN, CHPN