College of Nursing receives funding to establish community-based research

February 24, 2016

The Penn State College of Nursing has received $250,000 in funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to develop networks for community-based nursing research throughout Pennsylvania.

Funds from PCORI’s Eugene Washington Engagement Award program will be used to further the work of the college’s Research Nurse Initiative (RNI), established in 2014 to train professional nurses to conduct clinical research.

“The College of Nursing presents a unique context for creating community-based research networks,” said Janice Penrod, professor of nursing and project lead for Establishing Community-Based Research Networks. “Our clinical nursing faculty live and work in communities across the state, building relationships through professional and civic interactions. At the same time, our centralized administration creates a cohesive unit in which faculty at all 12 of our campuses interact regularly.”

The college’s leadership has long recognized the potential for building community partnerships to improve health outcomes. Establishing a community-based research network is one of the objectives outlined in the college’s current strategic plan, and the RNI was just the first step.

Originally funded by Penn State’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) as well as the College of Nursing, the RNI yielded a cohort of 27 nurse scholars with a wide range of clinical specialties. These scholars received training in research skills and ethics to gain the competencies needed to engage in clinical research targeting their communities, said Nikki Hill, assistant professor of nursing and co-lead on the PCORI grant.

“Each of these 27 faculty members brings a wealth of knowledge and experience related to his or her community’s infrastructure and health needs,” Hill said. “This expertise makes the RNI scholars a valuable group for initiating and maintaining research endeavors throughout Pennsylvania’s diverse communities.”

The next step, Penrod said, is to establish community-based research networks—a necessary component of translating new knowledge into solutions for the health challenges communities face.

“Too often, researchers simply obtain the data they need, then leave the community to disseminate results to other scientists,” she said. “Strong community partnerships address the issues important to stakeholders by engaging them as full partners in the research enterprise.”

Establishing Community-Based Research Networks aims to harness the potential of community partnerships with a three-pronged approach: (1) active group mentoring, (2) linkage with the Penn State research community and CTSI, and (3) training that meets the needs of both nurses and community partners.

“Community partners are often enthusiastic to take part in meaningful health research, but lack the training to help shape a research agenda that addresses their needs,” Penrod said. “Nurses must be able to leverage focused, sustained partnerships to make the changes necessary to improve their communities’ health.”

The Eugene Washington Engagement Award program supports projects that engage multiple health care stakeholders in the research process, with a goal of building a community better prepared to participate in patient-centered research.

PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization that funds research intended to provide patients, caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed health care decisions.

Penn State’s CTSI provides resources and services to accelerate research discoveries and translate new findings into tangible health benefits that improve lives in Pennsylvania and beyond.

Last Updated March 01, 2016