1. Griffin-Sobel, Joyce P. PhD, RN, AOCN, APRN, BC

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You have been assigned to participate in a research committee, and your first thought is "Why me?" Smack yourself! A research committee can be a wonderful experience for you. But what exactly is it supposed to do?


Most clinical facilities have research committees. The functions include facilitating the performance of research by individuals within the institution, increasing the use of evidence in clinical practice, determining the research plan for the institution, reviewing studies for scientific merit and ethical integrity, disseminating the results of studies, presenting research education, and reviewing manuscripts (Mateo & Kirchoff, 1999).


If you are a member of the research committee, your first job is to discover the functions of your particular committee. Most established committees have a commission describing the responsibilities of the committee. If not, you are one lucky person because you can be influential in determining what activities the committee will pursue.


For example, assume you are working in a small endoscopy suite of a community hospital. You have been assigned to a 1-year-old research committee, which is widely regarded as a fate worse than cholera. No one with whom you work is the least bit interested in research. There are four people on this committee: you, with little experience in research but a burning desire to "do" it, a nursing supervisor whose primary concern is staffing, a nurse educator with a brand new master's degree, and a nursing professor from a nearby school of nursing who has conducted research. The first activity for the committee should be a review of its assigned responsibilities. The priority responsibility probably is educational activities for your center. In this way, you may be able to generate some enthusiasm for research findings in your workplace.


For instance, you could plan education sessions initially that are not threatening. Clip out an interesting article that is research based and write a paragraph or two discussing the conclusions. Display these clippings prominently. Form a journal club, in which an article on a "hot" topic is circulated among the staff and then discussed at a brown-bag luncheon. Have a highly interactive class on searching the literature. For this activity, your professor colleague or hospital librarian can help those in the session to locate articles on a topic of interest.


Perhaps there recently has been a particularly challenging case, a patient with an unusual disease or one who reacted in an unexpected way to a standard procedure. Some research articles on that situation can be accessed via a search, distributed to the nurses involved, and discussed. The research aspects of the articles can be discussed clearly without scientific jargon, and the group can brainstorm on how they would change their practice, if appropriate, on the basis of that research literature.


Committee members themselves can benefit greatly from participating. Every meeting should include educational content. The newly minted master's graduate can update the group on literature searching. The professor can educate members on methods and statistical interpretation. The nursing supervisor can determine what evidence exists on minimum staffing, and you can keep abreast of the newly published research in gastroenterology. Perhaps a new "theme" can be selected every few months-new findings on prevention of colorectal cancer, new findings on endoscopic reprocessing, or new findings on increasing comfort for patients undergoing a procedure. Nurses in your workplace will become interested in research if it is relevant to their practice.


Do not become bogged down in administrative details. Focus on what is important-improving practice through research. Invite guest speakers to come and discuss their research or tell how evidence can be used in practice. Publish a little newsletter with briefs on relevant research. Perhaps an email list may work in your setting. Try to be creative.


If you are selected to chair the committee, try not to run for the hills. Encourage an atmosphere of inquiry within the committee and the staff. Practice should be based on sound evidence. Keep asking why you do things the way your unit does them and insist that procedures be examined for a data-based rationale. Unfortunately, much of our practice is not based on research because that research has not yet been conducted, or the research that exists is not very well done. Keep asking why. It is important to remember that many of our practices are based on nothing more than tradition, so we need to be open to other ways of doing things. Feel free to communicate with me about your ideas at




Mateo, M., & Kirchoff, K. (1999). Using and conducting nursing research in the clinical setting (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders. [Context Link]