Strategies for Advancing Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Science Relevant to Practice: Perspectives from the American Psychiatric Nurses Association Research Council Co-Chairs

Article excerpt

In psychiatric-mental health nursing, nurse scientists and practitioners have an ethical obligation to improve practice through the identification of practice-relevant research priorities and through conducting research relevant to these priorities. In turn, the body of mental health nursing knowledge accumulates over time, with revisions in practice stemming from scientific breakthroughs and findings - the basis for best nursing practices that optimize human health. Generally, the goals of research in the psychiatric-mental health nursing specialty are to address substantive questions about clinical practice, health, effective interventions, and outcomes that provide the scientifi c basis for practice. Research is the avenue by which nurses pursue answers to critical questions in psychiatric-mental health nursing through the systematic collection and analysis of data about phenomena of interest, where 'psychiatric-mental health nursing' is defined as 'the diagnosis and treatment of human responses to actual or potential mental health problems' (American Nurses Association, 2000, p. 10).

Various strategies exist for developing mental health nursing science and consensus building around the advancement of the specialty. One such strategy is the active work of the Research Council (RC) of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) to actualize the goals of the organization. For example, its goals are to: promote research focused on issues of relevance to psychiatric mental health nursing; encourage exchange among nurse scientists studying psychiatric-mental health issues, psychiatric nurse clinicians, and psychiatric nursing educators; and assist members to conduct, understand, and apply scientific evidence to practice (APNA, 2008).

The authors take the position that strategies to advance nursing science within substantive areas of inquiry in psychiatric-mental health nursing is necessary if we are to continue to meet the health needs of individuals and society in an effective, humane, and holistic manner that is not merely focused on symptom management and acute crisis management. Thus, identifying research priorities and other strategies for advancing psychiatric mental health nursing science is critical. In this manuscript, we discuss both of these from our perspectives as co-chairs of APNA's Research Council, drawing upon our collaborative work in that capacity and from our individual endeavors in research and practice. We will review three major strategies for advancing psychiatric-mental health nursing science relevant to practice: identifying research priorities, responding to the knowledge needs of research nurses and practitioners, and building programs of research and practice innovation.


What do psychiatric-mental health nurses identify as priority areas for research that will advance the science of our nursing specialty? To provide one answer to this question, the authors, co-chairs of the Research Council of the APNA, undertook the task of identifying predominant themes of 'priority research areas' based on the responses of 100 psychiatric mental health nurse attendees at the 2008 American Psychiatric Nurses Foundation (APNF) Breakfast. Through two iterative rounds of content analysis and consensus building, we themed the research priorities identified by the nurses. One overarching priority emerged from the responses. That priority was:

To test nurse-defined mental health interventions, the impact of which must be measured by nurse intervention-sensitive outcomes.

Five substantive areas of inquiry were identified in which to meet the overarching priority. These are not presented in any particular order:

1. Strategies and models for shared decisionmaking/partnering to accomplish positive mental health treatment outcomes;

2. Intervention that is focused on prevention and treatment across multiple contexts, e. …