Wednesday, September 4, 2013

If I’d Only Known Then What I Know Now (A Letter to Myself)

We asked our grantees to write a letter to their "pre-INQRI" selves to share what they would have wanted to know before their funding began. Susan Letvak PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor of Nursing, UNC Greensboro, shares hers:

Dear Susan,

Just over three years from now you will have finished your Robert Wood Johnson INQRI-funded research project. While you were grateful you were able to finish your project on time, there are things you would do differently. Most importantly, when you started the project you never would have known the impact your study will have on nurses. I’m writing this letter to share some of those lessons.

1. Interdisciplinary teams can work together very well, even though you have not always had positive experiences as a co-investigator on other teams. Choosing a team that was vested in the project and in nursing outcomes made all the difference.

2. Stuffing envelopes takes longer than you think it will. While you had done mailed survey projects in the past, you never had to stuff 2,000 envelopes before. Thank goodness you had a research assistant built into the budget or you may still be stuffing envelopes today.

3. Your decision to use a professional graphic designer to design the survey was a great idea. The colorful and expertly designed survey was instrumental in the high response rate you received.

4. Your findings will not make everyone happy and you should be prepared for the angry responses you will receive from some nurses. Your findings will support that health problems in nurses leads to presenteeism which has a negative impact on quality of care. You will learn learn to always present positive strategies to overcome presenteeism so those nurses who have health problems will not feel maligned.

5. You will learn the importance of social media and blogs for reaching large audiences. In the past you relied only on manuscript publication and conference presentations to disseminate your research. This project will allow you to garner national attention in health blogs (including the NY Times) and as a guest on NPR.

6. You will not realize the positive impact you will make on increasing awareness and recognition of mental health problems in nurses and healthcare workers. At the onset of the project you thought that nurse pain would be the largest problem impacting nurses. Surprisingly your team found an 18% rate of depression in nurses. You remember reading the following poem written by Annabel Sheila:

Until it affects someone we love, 
We don’t even know it’s there. 
It’s really not our problem, 
So why should we care. 

The statistics are quite shocking, 
One in four they say 
Will suffer from depression 
In their lives one day. 

No one would choose to live with it, 
And some don’t even try. 
Most people turn the other cheek, 
They’ve been doing it for years. 
But it takes only one… 
ONE to know they care. 

You never realized the ONE would soon be you.

Have a great time with your INQRI project and the terrific people you will meet on your journey.


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