Academic journal article Research and Theory for Nursing Practice

Toward a Roadmap for Interdisciplinary Academic Career Success

Academic journal article Research and Theory for Nursing Practice

Toward a Roadmap for Interdisciplinary Academic Career Success

Article excerpt

The 21st century is a period of increased focus on interdisciplinary collaboration. To facilitate movement in the direction of interdisciplinary research, this article discusses some generic stumbling blocks, unique problems, and advantages that nurses experience, plus the rewards and hallmarks of well-functioning interdisciplinary research teams. The article ends with an overview of how interdisciplinary development can and should be part of each stage of academic career success.

Keywords: interdisciplinary collaboration; interdisciplinary research; nursing research; career stages; academic success

For decades, nursing has sought scientific respectability as a profession capable of developing a knowledge base to resolve pressing clinical problems. With the establishment of the National Institute of Nursing Research, scores of doctoral programs, postdoctoral research training, and many research journals and annuals, there can be no doubt that such respectability has been achieved (McBride, 1999). Now that nursing research is increasingly valued, the next developmental task is for the profession to strive for the highest level of interdisciplinary impact. We are living in an era when the value of one provider's knowledge must give way to the aggregated knowledge of the team of providers in order to address the complexity of today's problems (Porter-O'Grady, 1997). Accordingly, a career roadmap for achieving interdisciplinary academic success is presented, building on the author's insights gathered from participant observation and engagement at the national level as a senior academician with a long-standing commitment to career development. First, however, understandings about interdisciplinary collaboration need to be explored in greater detail in order to provide a context for the proposed roadmap.

It may be that interdisciplinary collaboration is the most bandied-about phrase used by health professionals without common understandings. For some, the phrase just means that internists and psychiatrists occasionally consult with each other; for others, the phrase means the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing use the same simulation laboratories but on alternate days. Certain kinds of interdisciplinary grant applications require letters of support from deans in more than one health-science school, but that letter may be the most cooperative interaction until the grant needs to be renewed and another letter of support is required.

Examples of interdisciplinary collaboration have included everything from the blurring of occupational boundaries that occurs in community mental health (Brown, Crawford, & Darongkamas, 2000) and when understaffed hospital personnel work together at night (Snelgrove & Hughes, 2000), to the establishment of daily nursephysician planning meetings (Ashton, Shi, Bullot, Galway, & Crisp, 2005) and combined education and research (Francis & Humphreys, 1999; Mitchell et al., 2006). The Institute of Medicine (IOM, 2003) has said that interdisciplinary collaboration is a core competency all health care professionals need in the 21st century, but how that plays out in orchestrating academic career success remains to be fully described.

At this point in time, there is growing emphasis on interdisciplinary research as evidenced by the importance placed on this subject within the National Institutes of Health (NIH)'s Roadmap (2004). There is increasing awareness that understanding complex phenomena-preventing infections, living with a chronic health problem, tailoring behavioral interventions through creative use of information technology- requires an interdisciplinary approach, hence NIH's design of Institutional Clinical and Translational Awards to encourage research that spans bench to bed to community (Andrews et al., 2009; Knafl & Grey, 2008; Loeb, Penrod, Kolanowski, Hupcey, & Kopenhaver, 2008). NIH's Office of Research on Women's Health has partnered with various NIH institutes to invest heavily in interdisciplinary research centers and interdisciplinary research training programs (ORWH, 2009). …

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