1. Section Editor(s): Roberts, Dottie MSN, MACI, RN,C, ONC, CNS

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Her interest in conducting and using research gained a practical expression 5 years ago, when she began a consultation business called Practice Research Integrations. Besides helping clinicians design small studies, Sarah Jo also works with health care facilities to help nurses examine and incorporate research findings into their practice. Findings frequently prompt significant practice changes, such as the development of a skin care program for elderly hospitalized patients or of a new pain management option.


Sarah Jo's varied clinical and academic career has added greatly to the value she places on nursing research. At the suggestion of an uncle who served as a hospital administrator, she chose a baccalaureate program for her basic nursing education and earned a BSN from Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland) in 1964. Her studies included 2 years of college and 3 years of nursing school - "the best of the baccalaureate program and the best of the diploma school," according to Sarah Jo.


After graduation, Sarah Jo began work as a staff nurse on the same medical/surgical unit at University Hospital (Cleveland) on which she had completed her senior clinical experience. "Some patients I took care of then are just as vivid in my memory as if I took care of them yesterday," she remembers.


A year later, Sarah Jo moved to California to accept a medical/surgical staff position at the new Stanford Medical Center. That experience was followed by 2 years in public health practice on the south side of San Jose - "I really enjoyed the Mexican-American patients I had" - and then a position as critical care float nurse at El Camino Hospital (Mountainview, CA).


It wasn't long, Sarah Jo admits, until she "started getting restless and thinking about graduate school." Acceptance at Boston University meant a move to the east coast in 1968. She completed her MSN with a focus on education in 1970, becoming a "nurse leader" at New England Medical Center (Boston) for 4 years and then Associate Director of Nursing Affairs at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (Hanover, NH).


"Both were wonderful jobs," she remembers. "They were good because, at that time, the focus in health care was on quality and not so much on finances. It was a time when hospitals could put together a decent staffing pattern and support staff by having clinical nurse specialists on the units and by having good orientations and continuing education."


After 4 years in the Associate Director role, Sarah Jo was again ready for a change. "I worked my way down the ladder," she says jokingly as she describes her next position as a part-time staff nurse on the cardiac step-down unit. With time to think, she decided to conduct research on the postoperative experiences of open heart patients. Interviews pointed to dramatic experiences such as hallucinations and emotional lability, which had not been reported in the literature to that time. Sarah Jo was unable to publish her findings but, she says, "For someone who had no guidance, it was a good study - and it got me back in the literature to find that nursing was really building a knowledge base."


The experience sparked her desire to pursue doctoral studies. In 1990, she became the first PhD graduate in nursing from the University of Rhode Island. Using a research method called discourse analysis for her dissertation, Sarah Jo taped patient interviews conducted by an antepartum clinical nurse specialist and then performed a micro-analysis of the nurse-patient exchange to determine how care was tailored to each patient.


Sarah Jo accepted a faculty position at the University of New Hampshire (Durham) after finishing her doctorate. There she enjoyed teaching graduate students about nursing theory, clinical decision making, and research. At the same time, she signed a contract with the nursing department at Concord Hospital (Concord, NH) to serve as part-time nurse researcher.


"That audience really stoked my interest in research utilization," she comments. Sarah Jo's experiences at Concord Hospital led to her writing the book Knowledge for Health Care Practice: A Guide to Using Research Evidence, which was published in 1999.


For the last 3 years, Sarah Jo has done quite a bit of writing and has conducted workshops on evaluating research reports to decide if findings are trustworthy enough to be used in practice. She notes two typical barriers to this activity: lack of familiarity with research methods, and lack of time to read studies and discuss them with colleagues.


Helping NAON members develop research evaluation skills will be one of her objectives in her new role as Director of Research. "I guess I'll just keep beating the drum that says we owe it to our patients to provide care that is based on the best scientific evidence available," she concludes.


Sarah Jo balances her professional interests with a healthy appetite for the outdoors. She enjoys boating on the nearby Connecticut River and taking day hikes through the Vermont countryside. With a home on four acres of land, she has plenty of experience with gardening and property upkeep. Two years ago, Josie the donkey joined Sarah Jo at her country home. "Getting a donkey's a little bit like getting married because donkeys live for 35 years," Sarah Jo says. Josie is an effective guardian for Sarah Jo's small flock of sheep. She's also becoming a good trail rider. "She's green, I'm green - we're learning together and we're actually making progress!!" Sarah Jo laughs.

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