1. Speroni, Karen Gabel PhD, BSN, MHSA, RN
  2. Hess, Robert PhD, RN, FAAN


Nursing has been pandemic-slammed. Although 2020 will be forever entangled with the COVID-19 pandemic, we, as nurse leaders, must continue to move forward and beyond this endemic challenge. We cannot lose focus on generating new knowledge to continue nursing excellence and move our profession forward.


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Fostering shared decision making takes planning, personal involvement, and energy. When shared decision making is not prioritized and professional nursing governance not nurtured, the highest levels of evidence and clinical nurse engagement cease.1


In 2020, when COVID-19 was wreaking havoc on healthcare systems across the United States and abroad, many organizations suspended all research unless it was related to an aspect of COVID. Resources including those supporting research have been diverted to respond to emergent issues.


Stalled nurse-led research among Magnet(R) and emerging Magnet organizations is problematic. Scholarly research takes time and can span years, depending on the focus of the study. Among others, steps include idea inception, study conduct, analysis of findings, dissemination of outcomes, and translation and implementation of findings into practice. To achieve Magnet designation, a minimum of 3 studies is required within a 48-month period of the Magnet cycle. One research study must be completed, 1 should be disseminated by a clinical nurse both internally and externally, and 1 research study should be ongoing.2


It is difficult to conduct research during a pandemic. We recently engaged a sample of nurse experts to investigate the associations between professional nursing governance and nurse-related outcomes at 20 hospitals in 4 countries.3,4 There were difficulties in conducting online survey research, as hospitals struggled to find the balance in recruiting nurses to participate in research when COVID-related issues were taking priority. How do we keep nursing research alive and best support our most important resource, our nurses, during a pandemic?


A 1st step is to evaluate your professional nursing governance structures and processes and how shared decision making and shared or self-governance can be achieved in times of uncertainty.5 Well-established governance structures should be designed to perform during times of uncertainty, versus being put on hold. Nursing and nurse leaders will be faced with continual, new, and often unexpected challenges in uncertain times. In strong governance structures, prioritizing the contribution of clinical nurses can help sustain and advance nursing practice in all areas. In addition to virtual meetings and enhanced online communication methods, innovative strategies are needed to optimize shared decision-making.


A 2nd step is to review each council's goals to ensure alignment with the nursing strategic plan and organizational goals. Goal alignment in times of uncertainty can align resources to conduct inquiry-related work, whether quality improvement, evidence-based practice (EBP) initiatives, or nurse-led research.


Organizations may need to solidify or accentuate resources to support research. A solid EBP process and model are essential to guide inquiry.6 A more formal relationship with a nursing research mentor may be needed. Having a mentor is the number one facilitator for nurse-led research within practice settings.7 Nurse research internships and fellowships can support dedicated time out of staffing for clinical nurses to participate. Only 20% of hospitals report having a research internship or fellowship.8


Our experiences during the pandemic have heightened attention on new opportunities for research. Work environment concerns, mental health and family coping issues, compassion fatigue and burnout, post-raumatic stress disorder, and retention may be top-of-mind for nurses. We will continue to contend with COVID vaccination issues, variants, reinfections, and long-term COVID effects, all additional areas for nursing research. Unique strategies will be needed to manage patients with exacerbated pulmonary and cardiac problems and those with chronic conditions worsened during the pandemic.


Nurses have emerged from the pandemic as a profession even more appreciated and empowered. Nurse leaders must capitalize on the end of the initial crisis to build on the opportunities for resources and leadership. Building on a sound structure of professional governance and clinical nurse empowerment should be a key strategy for us as a profession and as leaders.




1. Hess RG. The Measurement of Professional Governance: Scoring Guidelines and Benchmarks. Hobe Sound, FL: Forum for Shared Governance; 2017. [Context Link]


2. American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Recognition Program. 2019 Magnet Application Manual. Silver Spring, MD: American Nurses Credentialing Center; 2017. [Context Link]


3. Speroni KG, Wisner K, Stafford A, et al. Effect of shared governance on nurse sensitive indicator and satisfaction outcomes: an international comparison. J Nurs Adm. 2021;51:287-296. [Context Link]


4. Speroni KG, Wisner K, Ober M, Haines F, Walters C, Budhathoki C. Effect of shared governance on nurse sensitive indicator and satisfaction outcomes by magnet recognition status. In press. J Nurs Adm. [Context Link]


5. Hess RG Jr., Weaver SH, Speroni KG. Shared governance during a pandemic. Nurse Lead. 2020;18:497-499. [Context Link]


6. Speroni KG, McLaughlin MK, Friesen MA. Use of evidence-based practice models and research findings in Magnet-designated hospitals across the United States: national survey results. Worldviews Evid Based Nurs. 2020;17(2):98-107. [Context Link]


7. Patterson Kelly K, Turner A, Gabel Speroni K, McLaughlin MK, Guzzetta CE. National survey of hospital nursing research, part 2: facilitators and hindrances. J Nurs Adm. 2013;43(1):18-23. Reprinted 2013;43(10):S36-S41. [Context Link]


8. Kirkpatrick McLaughlin M, Gabel Speroni K, Patterson Kelly K, Guzzetta CE, Desale S. National survey of hospital nursing research, part 1: research requirements and outcomes. J Nurs Adm. 2013;43(1):10-17. Reprinted 2013;43(10):S28-S35. [Context Link]