The drive to do the best for patients. It’s a trait that fuels the heart of every nurse. For some, this passion put them on the path to research.
Among those is Andrea Shimko, M.S.N., R.N., CCRN, senior education specialist and nurse researcher at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. After working as a bedside nurse for seven years, she realized that she wanted to do more to be able to help her patients and research was the answer. Shimko has joined the growing Nursing Research Program, led by Dr. Gen Cline, PhD, DNP, ARNP, NNP-BC, CNE, RN-BC. The Nursing Research Program promotes nursing research and scientific inquiry at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
Without research, it would be impossible for the field of health care to advance. Research success depends on collaboration between researchers, clinicians, and frontline nurses. By engaging those who work at the bedside, researchers can better understand the needs of the patients.
Currently, there are four ongoing studies conducted by Johns Hopkins All Children’s nursing research fellows. The fellowship program takes select frontline nurses and guides them through conducting their own research study.
“We can do more by bringing the science to the patient care we are already doing,” Shimko explains. “Building a broader future for this program and engaging our staff in it is really important to ensure we are doing our best.”
Shimko is currently assisting with four ongoing nursing research studies. This involves assisting with the study design, data collection and analysis of data and preparing the study for publication. Beyond the day-to-day tasks, she’s also a mentor to a group of new researchers in the Nursing Research Fellowship Program. As a mentor, she offers guidance through this process and helps the nursing research fellows navigate any roadblocks that may arise.
Becoming a nurse researcher requires the ability to think and prioritize like a scientist as well as a care provider. It is the role of mentor to offer guidance through this process and help navigate through any roadblocks that may arise.
“Nurses are studying to improve the lives of our patients and the nursing care we give so we can achieve the best outcomes based on evidence,” Shimko adds.
Now in the home stretch of earning her Ph.D., she has her sights set on a research study of her own. Based on things observed during her nursing practice, Shimko hopes to study the developmental outcome of children born with complex conditions requiring extended hospital stays in the first years of their lives. These babies often miss out on social interactions that encourage brain development. She wants to examine how nurses can better help these babies thrive.
“It’s all for the patients and it will always come back to them,” she says. “They are at the heart of everything we do.”