Friday, May 9, 2008

Christine Webb at Otago Polytechnic

On Thursday I had the honour of meeting Christine Webb. Christine is the executive editor of Journal of Advanced Nursing, a prestigious international journal of nursing. Christine is also the professor of health studies at the University of Plymouth in the UK.
Christine was here to speak with staff at Otago Polytechnic about "growing a profession through research".

Her lecture discussed the various types of research. She suggested that we should not undervalue quantitative research in nursing, midwifery and allied health fields. She mentioned the preference that is often expressed in these areas for qualitative research and suggested that this is not always as well conducted or as rigorous as it could be. She spoke of the importance of looking at a phenomenon under study from more than one perspective, "triangulation". Christine also stressed the value of systematic review and suggested that this is something that we as educators could do to within our fields to support dissemination of evidence.

Christine discussed the importance of practice based on the best available evidence and spoke of research into evidence based practice which highlights the preference, in all health fields, for gaining knowledge and information from colleagues and other contacts. There is a tendency, when this is the case, for traditional practices to be promoted without good supporting evidence. This can lead to practices which have been proven to be ineffective, or even harmful, being continued in practice. She gave examples of this, for example pressure area care. This relates to my own research which found a similar preference amongst rural midwives, some of whom had small groups with whom they shared information and some of whom did not have this opportunity. The challenge is to get information about evidence for practice to these groups to support change in practice. However I do not believe it is enough to only get the information out there. In many instances I beleive it is important for some role modeling of the new practice to be available. For example one of the participants in my study commented that she would like to start using a sterile water block for lower back pain in labour. This is something that has been known about for some time but she has never seen it done in practice and so feels unable to take that step and try it in practice herself.

Christine suggested that one answer is for educators to get out into the workplace and make themselves known, being a resource for evidence for practice. I can see this is something that might help in some way but I think we need greater recognition of the importance of social networks and communities of practice (COP) to learning, we need to find innovative ways to utilise COP to disseminate information and evidence and we need to find way for role modeling innovations based on evidence. I see online resources as one way in which this might be achieved.

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