Nurses helping nurses
Supporting nurses is one of the things Sara Ling enjoys most about her current roles as an APCL at CAMH and PhD student at the University of Toronto also supervised by Dr. Kristin Cleverley, CAMH Chair in Mental Health Nursing Research at CAMH. “I’ve really enjoyed giving guest lectures at the University of Toronto and the mentorship aspect of the Barford Scholarship program. It’s a pleasure to connect and mentor,” she says.
The Barford Advanced Practice Nursing Scholarship is available for registered nurses at CAMH who are interested in pursuing a master’s degree in nursing, health administration or another field. The prestigious scholarship annually supports one full-time student for a maximum of two years, and two part-time students for a maximum of four years.
Sara, who started at CAMH in 2010 as a new graduate Registered Nurse on unit 2-2, was one of the first-ever Barford scholars in 2012. After completing a Barford Internship, Sara began working as an APCL in the Medical Withdrawal Service. She says her experience as an APCL and interest in research inspired her to return to school in 2017 to pursue a PhD.
“I’ve seen many patients leave care early and always wondered what happened to them and if they share any characteristics. For my PhD, I’m looking at if there are predictors of patients leaving and what their experiences in the hospital were,” she says. “I’m trying to understand if there’s something we can be doing differently to help engage these patients to prevent them from leaving care early.”
Sara is using the rest of this year to develop her research proposal and hopes to start conducting her research in 2020 after defending her proposal. Like Remar, one of the obstacles she expects to encounter is recruiting enough participants for her research study.
In addition to the challenges of finding enough willing participants, the larger systemic issues nurse researchers face are recognition and opportunity, explains Dr. Strudwick.
“There’s not a common understanding that nurses are equally able to contribute to research as their colleagues, such as physicians,” she says. “There also is very limited nursing-specific research funding, which makes it very hard to pay participants and hire research analysts.”
Nonetheless, Dr. Strudwick is grateful for the opportunity to have independence and autonomy to look for solutions to problems that exist in the system and at CAMH. “To have the ability to think about different ways of addressing them and then get some funding and a team together to actually try to tackle them is awesome—especially if the solutions are truly impactful,” she says.