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Research: The Engine Behind Psychiatric-Mental Health Science

Research: The Engine Behind Psychiatric-Mental Health Science

November, 2022

“Our science drives care practices,” says Dr. Brandy Mechling, APNA Research & Scholarship Council Chair. “Identifying and disseminating research priorities for our nursing role is an initial step in examining the state of our science. It is a means to educate stakeholders serving our population, including identifying gaps in the literature and evidence, determining educational needs for nurses and other healthcare professionals, and locating funding sources for research, evidence-based practice, and quality improvement work.”

So, how can PMH nurses balance the competing priorities of research and practice? Mechling’s response, “By encouraging PMH nurses to have a spirit of inquiry.” She suggests collaboration. “PMH nurses working on a unit or in direct care have opportunities to identify areas for practice change. …A nurse with a Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) or PhD could collaborate with those nurses and other stakeholders to develop that idea, plan a project, implement it, and determine and disseminate findings.”

In their recent JAPNA article, “Research Priorities in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing: Funding Availability, Recently Published Work, and Future Directions for Advancing Our Science,” the authors (Brandy Mechling, Nadia Ali Charania, Olimpia Paun, Linda Lewin, Andrea Bostrom, Mercy Mumba, Ko Niitsu, and Nancy Ahern) offer the results of a comprehensive literature review and next steps.

Their examination of 2020 PMH nursing peer-reviewed publications provides a glimpse of what work has been accomplished and where attention is needed. According to Mechling, “We are seeing more work focused on technology used in psychiatric-mental health, partially due to reliance on telehealth during the pandemic. We are also addressing the need for trauma informed care, best practices in substance use disorders, and recognizing health disparities and social determinants of health in PMH nursing research. It seems we are still trying to catch up with work geared toward genetics/genomics and widespread data sharing.”

The authors are members of the APNA Research and Scholarship Council Steering Committee. The council, which most recently convened at the APNA 36th Annual Conference, provides a forum for APNA members. Mechling states, “Members attend and share what their needs are in reference to their work and how the council can assist them. While some are in a PhD or DNP program, some are getting started in their research and scholarship career, and others may be seeking partnerships for their work, the common goal is advancing our science.”

APNA encourages PMH nurse researchers early in their careers through the APNA Research Grants. Mechling observes, “Findings from our review and article aligned with three of four APNA’s research priorities for the 2021 annual grants.” The priorities include:

  • Strategies and models for shared decision-making/partnering to accomplish positive mental health treatment outcomes.
  • Strategies to address disparities and promote and/or increase diversity, equity, and inclusion within mental health care, including access to care, and the psychiatric-mental health nursing workforce.
  • Integrated mental health care that considers developmental and holistic (biological, social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual) dimensions across the lifespan.

The JAPNA article authors did note an absence of a certain research priority among the PMH nursing literature reviewed: “One key area that was lacking in all of the publications we examined was intervention work,” says Mechling. The JAPNA article notes, “This contrasts with many U.S. funders’ priorities for interventional research. All published articles by U.S. nurses matched the funding priorities, but not all funding priorities were addressed by the 2020 publications.” This revelation might be just the spark to light PMH nurse engines in order to drive the science forward.