Unsolicited Advice for Writing a Research Article for a Journal

Writing research articles for peer-reviewed journals requires practice, patience, and persistence.  I am by no means a prolific scholar but I worked with one who was amazing (the late Dr. Heather K. Spence Laschinger) for six years and learned a thing or two about writing journal articles (and my record isn’t too shabby for an early career scholar either). I am also an award-winning peer-reviewer for several journals so I have seen a lot of excellent and not-so-excellent submissions which has made me a better scholar too.

One of the things I really love about this role is being able to provide helpful feedback to others that can help strengthen their work. Chances are I will never be your peer-reviewer (unless you are a nursing or management scholar) but I wanted to share some tips on how to present your best work and improve your chances of publishing your research. From a reviewer perspective I think this guidance is important too because we are volunteering  our time to review papers (yes, that’s right, we do it for free, mostly because we care and are mega-dorks) and trying to review a poorly written and/or disorganized manuscript is frustrating.

So, without further ado, here’s my unsolicited advice for writing a research article.

Select the journal first

But, how do I choose a journal?

First, read the aims and scope of the journal to make sure it is a good fit for your research. For example, if you did a study on job burnout, you might not want to submit it to the Journal of Applied Physiology. Burnout Research would be a better fit for your work. Journal-research fit, if you will, is super important because the editor wants to make sure that the articles are of interest to their readers.  You will not make it past the editor’s desk if your article isn’t a good fit for the journal so save everyone some time and do your homework before you submit (and even better, before you begin writing).

Ideally you should select 2-3 journals that are a good fit for your research and then compare them. Look at their impact factors and take a look at a couple of recent articles from each to get a feel for the kinds of studies they publish. Also look at the word length and author guidelines because sometimes that can be more important than impact factor if you need more space. I recommend always going for the best journal first and then keeping the others in mind in case your work gets rejected from the first choice.

Read the author guidelines and follow them EXACTLY.

Don’t waste your time writing a 10,000 word paper with 10 tables and figures for a journal that wants 5,000 words and a max of 4 tables and figures. Author guidelines are not suggestions – they are rules! Your job as an author is to make it as easy as possible for the editor to give your paper the green light to move on to the peer-reviewers. You also want to make it easy for the reviewers to focus on the content of your paper, not the writing, grammar, and formatting, etc. It is also worth repeating that the journal already gave you the guidelines!  It’s not rocket science, it’s attention to detail (and it’s important!).

Use a reference management software program.

While it is tempting to just use the copy and paste feature from Google Scholar, in the long run, it will save you a ton of time to save and organize your articles systematically. I use Mendeley (it’s free) so I will speak directly about that program. Mendeley has many cool features that make life easier for researchers and students.

  1. You can upload PDFs using drag and drop and the program will populate all of the reference fields automatically (always check for accuracy though because they are often imperfect).
  2. The program then allows you to highlight and make notes directly on PDFs of your articles so you don’t have to print them out.
  3. It has a cite and write feature for Microsoft Word that allows you to insert citations from your reference library while you write.
  4. It generates a reference list for you in the style of your choice. This will save you about a million years if your paper ends up getting rejected and you need to submit to another journal that uses a different referencing style (trust me, it is painful to switch styles manually if you haven’t experienced this).
  5. You are likely to reuse some of your references in the future for grants or papers so a reference management program keeps you organized (and again, saves you time looking up the same article 20 times).
  6. Your Mendeley library is saved on a cloud so you can access it on any computer. I love this feature because I can access my libarary at home and work and on my laptop so I never have to worry about where my files are.

Write the literature review/ theory section first.

Although not everyone emphasizes theory in their work I think it is really important. I am really not impressed by empirically-driven papers that dump a bunch of variables into a statistics program and tell me that they are significantly related to one another statistically. I want to know if those relationships are meaningful. In other words, why and how are things related and what are the implications? This is where theory and logic come in. Let’s pause here and think about an example: both ice cream sales and drownings increase significantly in the summer. Logically, we know that drownings do not cause increased ice cream sales or vice versa, but rather, both are related to an increase in temperature (when it gets hot people are more likely to want to eat ice cream and to cool off in the water). Another example: Mud and rain are positively correlated but we know that rain causes mud, not the other way around! In both examples, the data could support relationships that are not logical, demonstrating the need for theory-driven research. Don’t start with your data; start with why! (“Start with Why” is also the title of an excellent book by Simon Sinek, FYI).  If you are doing a qualitative study then theory is equally important in terms of identifying and explaining the paradigm and method that you are using. Helter skelter coding of interviews or focus groups doesn’t quite cut it.

Write the methods and results sections next.

These should be the easiest parts of your paper to write. In the methods section you simply explain what you did in your study and in the results you describe the findings. Writing these sections makes your paper feel like a “real” article and gives you the content you need for your discussion section and conclusions.

Your methods section should outline your study design, sampling procedures, data collection methods, intervention and control groups (if applicable), and data analysis methods. For quantitative studies, providing accurate information about your measures is really important. Describe each one and provide support for their validity and reliability.

A quick note about tables and figures here – make sure they are formatted the way the journal wants them and that they are easy to read and understand. I suggest using the full names of variables rather than abbreviations (e.g., “job satisfaction” is easier to understand at a glance than “jstotal” or whatever code name you came up with in SPSS or SAS).  Never ever copy and paste output from statistics programs!  Just don’t. As a reviewer it makes me cringe when people do this. You can easily copy it into a word document and reformat it to meet the journal guidelines.  When you don’t it looks like you either didn’t read the journal guidelines or you didn’t care.  For bonus points, if you have space to include a diagram that shows your model of how variables are thought to be related in your study, it is super helpful to reviewers and readers (and arguably to yourself).

Tackling the discussion.

The structure of this section is going to depend on your research and the journal guidelines but generally, it is a good idea to have an introductory paragraph that sums up the overall findings and then subheadings to discuss different key findings in further detail (keep it logical and organized). You should interpret the meaning and implications of your results and discuss how they fit with past research. This is one of the toughest sections to write because it requires the synthesis and integration of ideas from multiple sources. You should not just paraphrase or summarize what was found in other studies; you are explaining, linking, comparing, and analyzing your results and those of other studies.  You are pulling out the meaningfulness of your study.

Limitations.

Despite common limitations for studies with similar designs, most journals still require that you provide a limitations section. For example, obvious and common limitations include sample size and power, response rate, cross-sectional designs, common method bias, sampling bias, and social desirability bias. Pick two or three of these to address (not all of them!). If there is something particular that you think limits the validity or reliability of your results or their generalizability beyond your study, it is important to include it in this section and explain the potential implications or cautionary interpretation needed. As much as possible, keep this section short and sweet.

Introduction section.

You are almost there! Again, make sure you follow the instructions for authors for the journal because some of them are very particular about what to include in each section. Often the introduction includes a statement about the purpose and/or aim of the study and is the place where you need to introduce the reason why your study was needed. The introduction is an excellent place to use some key statistics that highlight the severity or reach of the problem at hand and grab the reader’s attention. At the end of the introduction it should be obvious what the problem is and how your research is going to address that problem.

Writing the abstract.

Think of your abstract as the profile picture of your article. People will decide whether or not to read your paper based just on this short blurb. Whether we approve of it or not, sometimes people only read the abstract because they don’t have access to the full article or they are pressed for time. Abstracts are also used in the systematic review process and for conference presentations so learning to write excellent abstracts is a valuable skill. The biggest challenge is fitting everything you want to say into 150-300 words (just look at the length of this blog post lol!). Not easy and again, every journal has different guidelines. Some want a descriptive paragraph but most have subheadings (e.g., Introduction, Purpose, Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusion, keywords). Generally you have room for 1-2 sentences for each section so you have to be concise and edit a lot!  The best advice I have for this process is to start from scratch instead of cutting and pasting sentences from your paper (always too long and too detailed) and to write only one essential sentence for each section. Then you can add as needed and as room permits.

Consistency.

The last point I want to make is that it is essential that your entire paper is consistent from start to finish. If you are examining the effectiveness of a weight loss intervention on cardiovascular risk factors in overweight men, then the whole entire paper should focus on that. There shouldn’t be new surprise variables like vitamin D consumption or social support introduced in the middle of the paper! Likewise, your discussion and implications should be logical and realistic. One study never proves anything 100%. Recall that with hypothesis-testing research a significant result just means that you are 95% sure (or 99% sure, depending on your p-value) that your results didn’t happen by chance.  You are contributing to a body of evidence and an ongoing research conversation. To improve consistency, after your first draft is written take a break and read it from start to finish with fresh eyes. Read it critically and ask yourself if there is anything that doesn’t make sense or flow quite right. Talk about your variables in a logical order and keep the same order throughout your paper and in tables and figures. This creates less work for the reader and makes it easier to follow.  Once you are done editing, get someone else to edit it. If you are working in a team and different sections were written by different people, it is especially valuable to have one person edit the whole document and make it flow (everyone has a unique style!). If English is not your first language and you are submitting to an English-language journal definitely try to get it proof-edited by a professional for grammar and spelling before you submit.

Hope you found this helpful and if you are a nurse, please check out my new feature Nursing Research Summaries. I think you’ll find that helpful too!

Happy writing!

Sitting is the New Smoking…

sitting-is-killing-you

So apparently, sitting is the new smoking…and therefore, I am probably going to die.  Not really (I hope), but there has been a whole lot of attention to the “sitting epidemic” recently, highlighting how much time most of us spend sitting during a regular work day.  (Clearly, they have not spent any time with a staff nurse lately!).  The solution? A standing desk, of course.  Or a treadmill desk. Or taking frequent breaks. Making sure that you have an ergonomically designed work station….

On perhaps, we need to start asking different questions about how our work is designed. For example, in academe, we do spend a lot of time sitting at our computer working on all kinds of things from research grants to articles, powerpoints, data analysis, etc.  Some of this work is unavoidable I think but I also wonder if some of this time could be used more effectively. For example, do we really need to write 20 research articles using one dataset?  Do we really need another book chapter on such and such that a handful of people will read?  What if we publish one really strong paper and then talk to people about our ideas instead?  How much more fun (and time effective) is it to interview people, record a podcast, or share a conference presentation on YouTube?  Obviously, none of these things completely eliminates computer time but I am guessing that the impact of one really great Ted Talk is much broader and valuable than a research article buried in an academic journal that mostly only other researchers are going to read.  Unless of course, more research articles = more tenure points.

Sometimes collecting tenure points feels a bit like being Mario trying to get all the gold coins within reach (and apparently research activities that require copious sitting are as likely to kill you as sitting on your butt playing too many video games).

mario coins.jpg

So let’s assume that you just have to accept that your job requires some sitting.  What can you do to make it less bad?

  1. Take care of your body. Exercise. Eat nutrition food. Go easy-ish on the coffee (mostly). Get enough sleep.
  2. Plan ahead for the ebbs and flows of the school year. Midterms? Exam period? Research grant deadlines?  These are busy times, but they are not unexpected!  Get a calendar and plan ahead. I like to make extra healthy meals and stick them in the freezer to reduce cooking time. Having some exercise equipment in the basement is also really awesome for saving time when I am busy.  There have also been times when I have had to hire my babysitter to give me an extra morning or afternoon to do work on the weekend. (Fingers crossed that being a professor is more awesome than being a grad student working full time!).  Do I always get to do a full workout? No. But sometimes 10 minutes of exercise is better than nothing 😉
  3. Be super organized. You can waste a lot of time trying to simply locate documents, references, and sort through different versions of things.  Having a logical way to organize files and name documents will save you a ton of time. I even get my students to name their documents in specific ways so that I don’t end up with 25 versions of “Assignment 1”.  Using a reference management software program is also a really great way to save time with citing and reference lists, especially when you need to use different referencing styles for different journals. No more wasted time seeking and downloading the same reference articles over and over!  Lastly, using tags and folders in your email inbox is another strategy that saves oodles of time. If you can use the same main categories as your main files on your computer, that is even better!  I like to use gmail and get all of my other emails forwarded to that one account.
  4. Be reasonable. Sometimes I struggle with this. (e.g. “Of course I can have a baby and do my PhD and publish and compete in powerlifting and work at the hospital and teach, etc. at the same time…).  I like to set big goals and have a tendency to say yes to everything but I have learned that this usually leads to burnout. A better strategy is to take on a few things that you can really focus on. Reading (and re-reading) the Power of Less  is a helpful place to start.  Academia seems to reward people who work hard and do a lot but I think another point to consider is that learning and teaching is exciting!  Research and teaching are (should be) both about learning new things and understanding more about the world around us, as well as sharing that knowledge and excitement about learning.  It is hard to say no when you are excited about learning and sharing ideas!   Is it reasonable to spend 20 hours a week preparing for a class you are teaching for the first time?  Maybe not if you are teaching 3 courses and have other things on your plate.
  5. Aim for excellence, rather than perfection. I don’t think there is such a thing as “perfect”. The pareto principle, or 80:20 rule comes in handy here too. It states that 80% of your outcomes/effects will come from 20% of your work. Do you really need to make 50 slides for a 10 minute presentation?  Or, would 10-12 slides, well-designed, be more captivating and effective in getting your point across?  How much time are you spending sitting, working on things that have little to no impact?  After all, sitting is the new smoking….

Grant Writing Success

In late November I was offered my dream job as an Assistant Professor at the University of New Brunswick in the Faculty of Nursing (I enthusiastically accepted!).  I am getting ready to board the train on the tenure track and plunged right into writing my first CIHR grant as a PI. Not for the reasons you might think either. While I do understand that obtaining funding is valued as a performance outcome for faculty members, having money to do your research allows you to – wait for it – do your research 🙂  That being said, being awarded the money which allows you to accomplish valuable work is not the only reason to write a grant proposal and it is not the only measure of success (although, again, it is super helpful and makes it easier to do what you are trying to do).

So what else defines a successful grant application?  For me, success includes learning more about the research problems that I am interested in examining, learning more about what other researchers have done, and thinking about what we need to know and/or do to solve these problems (ultimately contributing to a healthier health care system and society I hope!). Building connections with other researchers, health care providers, and policy makers can also be a lot of fun!  Over the last few months I have been able to connect with others who share common interests and also have unique expertise and experience to bring to the project that I initiated. Regardless of whether or not we get funded for the project, we now have developed a plan, a budget, and have a good handle on what we want to accomplish through our research.

As a new kid on the block in New Brunswick it has also been really helpful for me to start meeting people and getting a better understanding of my new province. I grew up in Nova Scotia but each province has a different approach to health care delivery and my training and experience in nursing has been in Ontario in an urban centre which is quite different than Fredericton.  Making connections now will make it easier to fit in when I get there and I feel like it is a very welcoming place.

I do think our project is important and worth funding but I also recognize that there are limited funds and lots of great ideas worth funding.  It also depends on who ends up reviewing our application and the other projects that are being submitted.  At this point I’m not sure if you get “tenure points” for submitting applications that don’t get funded but it’s not like a straight-forward sport like track and field where there is a clear winner. Train hard, eat right, be the best, win, right?  Research grant competitions are more like artistic sports like figure skating and gymnastics where judges (reviewers) assess the relative value of competitors/applications and assess whether or not you will be able to successfully do the proposed research. Comparing research projects and teams that are qualitatively diverse makes it harder to decide which projects should be funded.approved

For these reasons, I think it is important to define success not just in terms of getting funded or not. As a novice PI, I am uncertain whether that will go in my favour or not.  After 4 degrees, 3 theses, and being able to balance all the demands of school, work, residence life, teaching, research, and being a single parent while also staying fit, I am 110% confident that I will be a good team leader and that we will be able to carry out the project as a team.  Of course, when you submit a research grant application you can’t put “single mom/time management ninja” or “worked 10 part-time jobs including running a residence hall while completing my undergrad” as part of your accomplishments/skills (and if you did, it would probably count against you).  Again, another reason why I think it is important to always do your best and see the process and the development of the proposal as an accomplishment and an opportunity to learn and grow as a writer and researcher.

Of course, if we do get the grant, it will be icing on the cake and I will be literally jumping for joy because we can start putting our research plan into action.  There is absolutely no denying that actually getting the grant is a successful outcome too!  And a very sweet one at that! However, if it is the only outcome that you focus on, I think that you miss out on a lot of other great things about writing research grants.

 

 

 

 

Relationship-building in a Task-Focused World

Increasingly, employees are asked to do more with less.  Arguably, this is the goal of Capitalism: to squeeze out as much work as possible for the least amount of money in order to maximize economic growth. I don’t think that this is a particularly helpful way to approach healthcare, as I believe that it is a basic human right, not a privilege, and that relationships with other people are fundamentally inefficient but extremely important.

In nursing the pressure to perform and maximize efficiency can be particularly difficult to cope with, as increased workloads leave less time to spend with patients and their families which is an important part of our job.  It may not seem like having a conversation is “work” but it is through conversations that patients communicate their needs, hopes, fears, and values (among other things).  By getting to know our patients, we are able to ensure that we provide care that meets their needs and treats each individual holistically, rather than as a list of tasks on our daily to-do list.

Building positive relationships with co-workers and leaders are also essential to creating a positive working environment where nurses and other members of the healthcare team can work together to deliver high-quality patient care.  Investing time and energy into these relationships is not efficient in the short term but pays dividends down the road in terms of staff retention, decreased voluntary absenteeism, decreased short-staffing (which leads to more sick time and burnout, etc.), and of course reduced time spent recruiting, interviewing, and training new hires.  It’s not rocket science that people who like their co-workers and their work environment are more likely to stay than those that dread coming in to work every day.  Strong relationships also facilitate good communication and trust among team members and generate shared understandings of work processes, as well as who knows what, and who to ask when you need help.

While we cannot ignore the tasks that need to be accomplished, as these are obviously important, we need to change how we think about relationships in the workplace.  Culturally, we have a tendency to judge relational work as “non-work” when in fact connecting to others in the workplace is very valuable (and sometimes extremely challenging) work.   Unlike patient care tasks that are easy to quantify and check off, it seems artificial and contrived to make a checklist that says “talked to each of my patients about their concerns”, “invested in my relationship with Susan by asking her about her son’s wedding”…etc.  I would also argue that most of us are naturally social and interested in other people so we do a lot of this work anyway and that trying to maximize relational “efficiency” by reducing these things to tasks is ridiculous (and insulting).

I understand that healthcare is expensive and many of the pushes to increase efficiency are driven by our aging population, aging workforce, government austerity, union wage increases, and the economic recession of 2008 (to name a few things).  It is complicated.  However, we need to invest in people and create healthy workplaces that foster a sustainable workforce and allow our healthcare professionals time to invest in relationships with patients. Pushing people harder and harder to produce more with less is not a long-term solution and will cost us more in the long-run – not just in terms of money, but in quality of life, happiness, and patient care.

Maybe the next time you see a nurse, doctor, or healthcare leader talking with a patient or a colleague, you should acknowledge that they are engaging in valuable work.  Just because we’re not doing a task like inserting an IV or giving a medication doesn’t mean that it’s not important.

 

International New Graduate Nurse Research Colloquium

On June 20th, 2013, my supervisor, Dr. Heather Laschinger, hosted a wonderful research colloquium with invited researchers from around the world who all have a special interest in gaining a better understanding of the challenges facing new grads during their transition from student to professional nurse.

I feel so fortunate to have been invited!  It was a fantastic day of sharing ideas and research results, as well as thinking about what we can do moving forward to help nurses transition into their new roles.  I also had a chance to share a poster of my recent work about correlates of workplace mistreatment (i.e. incivility and bullying) directed towards new nurses in Ontario.   I wish that kind of research wasn’t needed to begin with but I think a lot of it has to do with structural factors of the work environment (e.g. leadership, workload, resources, support, etc. available to do your job) and personal factors that individuals bring with them to their job.  It is challenging to be kind and happy when you’re working overtime, have a heavy patient load, and are exhausted!    Nurses are valuable health human resources and we definitely have some work to do in supporting them/us and in particular, during transitions to new career roles (new grads or otherwise!).

Overall it was an inspiring day and I am so thankful that so many knowledgeable and fabulous guests were able to attend!    Christine also did a terrific job putting the event together and making the day run seamlessly 🙂  Nicely done everyone!

emily poster 2013

How to Choose a Supervisor

Choosing your supervisor is one of the most important decisions that you will make as a graduate student.  Personally, I have been very fortunate with regards to supervisors.   I have worked with excellent scholars who have been supportive and kind, yet pushed and challenged me to learn and improve.

As a graduate student, the importance of having a good relationship with your supervisor cannot be under-emphasized.   I started looking for my doctoral supervisor two years before I applied for the PhD program and was fortunate to be able to work with my prospective supervisor as a research assistant during that time.  This gave me direct experience working with her and helped us develop a positive working relationship.  I knew going into my program that she was someone who I wanted to continue working with and vice-versa.  I primarily choose Western because she is an expert in her field and I enjoy working with her.  I lucked out because Western is also an amazing university with one of the best nursing programs in Canada.

I’m not sure that there are any truly bad supervisors out there but I have heard horror stories from friends in other disciplines.  I think it’s also important to consider that two people may be fantastic but have difficulty working together if it’s not the right fit.   If you are in the process of trying to choose a supervisor, here are some suggestions to help you get started.

1. First and foremost, do your research interests align?

You may really like someone but if they are an expert in something that doesn’t really interest you, it is probably best that you don’t work with them.  Investing your time and energy into something that you don’t enjoy is only going to make you miserable and potentially put strain on your relationship.

2. Clarify expectations on both sides. 

What do you expect from your supervisor and what do they expect of you?  Sounds pretty basic but you’d be surprised how many people don’t know what they should expect or look for in a supervisor, or on the flip side are unclear about what they are expected to do as a graduate student.

Start by thinking about what you want to learn through your graduate studies.  What skills and expertise are you aiming to acquire?  Graduate school should be about more than just getting a piece of paper!  This is an exciting opportunity to learn so take advantage of it.  (If you don’t feel this way, perhaps you should reconsider your decision or engage in some personal reflection about your approach to learning).  What do you need from your supervisor to help you be successful in achieving your goals?   Regular meetings?  Constructive feedback?   Opportunities to work on research projects?  High fives?

Ask potential supervisors what they expect of their students.  What GPA do they expect you to maintain?  Which courses do they expect you to take?   How long does it generally take their students to complete their degrees?   What is the expected timeline?   Do they want you to attend certain conferences or work for them as a research assistant?

Being up front about expectations can help you both decide if this will be a mutually beneficial relationship and eliminate a lot of frustration and misunderstanding down the line.

3. Talk to a current or former student.  

Having a coffee with someone who has worked with your prospective supervisor is a great way to get a sense of what they are like to work with.  It can also give you some insight into other aspects of the program such as coursework, other faculty members, and most importantly, its culture.  Is it competitive or cooperative?  Are most students working full-time as nurses, managers, and educators or are they full-time students who spend time together regularly?   Try to get a feel for what the experience has to offer and how that aligns with what you are looking to learn and accomplish as a grad student.

Final Thoughts:

I’m sure there are other questions that you will come up with, but I hope this is helpful in getting the gears going!  I am a strong advocate of nursing graduate education and I think that we need to do a better job of encouraging and supporting nurses who are interested in furthering their knowledge and expertise in this way.   Positive relationships within the academic environment are just as important as those in the health care setting so I encourage you to seek out a supervisor who will offer you their best and who will bring out the best in you.

Have a great day!

-Emily

STTI Conference Reflections

I just arrived home from the Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) conference in Indianapolis about creating healthy work environments.  It was a full day of driving there and back from Ontario but well worth the journey!   Everyone I met was so positive and inspiring – I wish we could spread this positive energy to the four corners of the earth and remind our colleagues that healthy workplaces are possible.  Are there barriers?  For sure.  But without a vision and passion for change, we are going to stay where we are, which unfortunately isn’t always  ideal.

Some of the highlights of the conference for me were listening to the panel discussion that kickstarted the conference on Friday morning, hearing Dr. Cindy Clarke speak later that day, and having a discussion about some of the challenges of having an academic career in nursing.

I had a real “light bulb” moment on Saturday when we were discussing the importance of recruiting and retaining doctoral-prepared nurses in academic positions and the value of  staying current in our clinical practice in addition to balancing the demands of teaching, research, and service while pursing tenure.

It dawned on me that the academy was not built with practice disciplines in mind, therefore clinical practice is not valued at many institutions in the same way as the traditional tripod of responsibilities (i.e. teaching, research, and service).   How can we be expected to prepare undergraduate students to become professional nurses if we are not up to date on our nursing skills and current best practices?  On the other hand, how can we possibly become and remain experts in all domains and still have a life?!    I’ll be the first to admit that I work 50-60 hours/week on research and schoolwork and the remainder of my time is spent with my son, working out, squeezing in other activities (like writing and grocery shopping) and sleeping.

Although I love my job as a staff nurse I am dreading going back to work in September when my maternity leave ends.   I know from experience that spreading yourself too thin takes a toll on my body and my mental health.  Not to mention that when quantity of activities increases past a manageable level, quality often suffers.   Having to choose between spending time with my son (which I will never get back) and running around like a crazy person trying to build my CV and establish my career is not easy.   I care deeply about nursing and I want to contribute to our profession in a meaningful way.  I also love my son and cherish all the time we have together.

Women already face enough challenges pursuing academic careers without the added obstacles of pursing one in nursing.  How can we expect nurses to give up their high-paying (and often unionized) staff nursing jobs to go back to school and still support their families?  Moreover, how can we expect nurses to complete their doctoral work while teaching or working full-time and often working the second shift at home as a mom and house manager?   Yet, so many do.   If we are going to successfully recruit and retain nursing faculty, we need to be more supportive of talented nurses who want to become educators and researchers.  We need to recognize and appreciate that as individuals we cannot and need not be experts in everything.  Every nurse has different gifts and strengths to offer that bring a wealth of knowledge and ways of being that enrich our profession.

For me, valuing, respecting, and embracing diversity is fundamental to creating a healthy profession and a healthy work environment.  Just because I have a passion for research and teaching and a few extra letters next to my name doesn’t mean I don’t admire and value the experience and expertise of seasoned staff nurses.  It would be completely ignorant of me to think that I know more or better than others; I simply know differently.  I would be gravely mistaken if I thought that what others have to offer makes me “less than”.  I can only hope that my colleagues in practice embrace the same attitude: I might be pursing an academic career but I am still a “real” nurse.

Thankfully, my nurse colleagues in academia have been so supportive and encouraging!   I have so much to learn and a long way to go but I am inspired by the courage, wisdom, and strength of the nurses who have led the way before me.   I am so fortunate to be surrounded by such wonderful scholars and nursing leaders.   Together we are all going to accomplish so much!