McNeese State University winners of the spring poster project for the NURS 390 course in nursing research are seated from left to right: Laurie Leblanc, Mermentau, Briley Wilson, Lacassine, Natalie Johnson, Church Point, Karley Leger, Roanoke, and Kourtney Leblanc, Welsh. The team’s research topic was “Blooming Through Music,” which looked into musical therapy for children who are affected by autism spectrum disorder.
(May 5, 2016) ***May 12 is Florence Nightingale's birthday. Historians say that Britain’s Nightingale was the first nurse to use statistics to track quality improvement efforts that ultimately led to better patient outcomes in the 1860s - a model still used by the nursing profession today. Nightingale is sometimes called “the mother of research” and her birthday always concludes National Nurses Week (May 6-12).
McNeese State University nursing students walking into Nursing Research, NURS 390, aren’t quite sure what to expect on that first day of class.
“NURS 390 is a non-clinical course, which is not the norm for our nursing students enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program,” said instructor Jenny Barrow, assistant professor of nursing at McNeese. “In their clinical courses, nursing students learn how something is done, but this research course teaches them why it is done that way.”
Barrow hopes to ignite a spark of inquiry among her students through this course that exposes students to basic research methods essential to providing evidence-based care that will continue to be a part of their lifelong learning.
Barrow has “a passion for research” and wants to instill this passion into her students. That’s why her class ends each semester with a research poster project. Most of the research topics come from student clinical experiences and she thinks that the project helps students develop a better understanding of the research process and how to present their work.
A winning project was selected from among the 66 students divided into 14 groups. The top group - Natalie Johnson, Kourtney Leblanc, Laurie Leblanc, Karley Leger and Briley Wilson - won with the research project titled “Blooming Through Music,” a study that indicated that family-centered music therapy sessions for children with autism spectrum disorder showed improvements in their social interactions. Each received a cash award from McNeese’s Kappa Psi Chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.
Team members gravitated toward this topic through various routes—one member had two cousins with ASD, while one had a friend whose brother was autistic. The other three were introduced to ASD through their pediatric clinical rotation and wanted to know more about this disorder. In researching the literature on various therapies for children with ASD, the team found several studies that indicated improvements in children in their social interactions when they were introduced to music therapy sessions and that nurses could provide essential teaching strategies for parents of these children.
So what did the team members learn?
Kourtney said the team’s research showed that ASD therapies must be personalized to accommodate the needs of the individual child as each reacts differently to various therapies. With musical therapy, the team found that one child interacted favorably to classical music while another preferred “Old McDonald Had a Farm.”
Natalie noticed that therapy became more family-centered when parents became more involved in the process after they saw that music therapy was working for their child in a formal setting.
Briley said the team also learned “that medicine is sometimes not the only answer - the use of music is free and an easily accessible therapy.” And she said they realized that music therapy could also be beneficial for other areas—the elderly in nursing homes or patients with mental health issues.
Karley explained that information obtained through research helps nurses to be better educators. “Nurses are involved in helping to develop programs that are individualized for patients, especially in our research concerning children with autism. Through research we discovered what therapies worked and what didn’t work. We now have an appreciation of what goes into research. This will make us better nurses.”
According to Laurie, the team members chose the problem, looked for a solution or a cure, translated the knowledge they uncovered from their research and made recommendations through their presentation.
“BSN students are consumers of research. They must not only be able to read and understand the articles they are researching but they must also be able to critique the article and see if the research is valid,” says Barrow.
“This research course lays the foundation for evidence-based practice,” she added. “When our seniors take NURS 425 (Implementation of the Leadership Role), each is paired with a nurse in the community and they work together to see how evidence-based practice can provide a better quality of life for their patients.”
Research is an essential component of the BSN program in the College of Nursing and Health Professions at McNeese, according to Dr. Peggy Wolfe, dean of the college.
“Our college prepares its BSN nursing graduates to enter the nursing profession while also developing vital nurse educators and researchers to inform and educate future generations of nursing students. It’s important that our BSN students develop the research skills that can translate into real time practice,” said Wolfe.
“Nursing is a dynamic profession and lifelong learning is essential for nurses to stay current with the increased complexity of the health care needs of today and into the future,” she explained. “In other words, the needs of our patients are changing and we in the nursing profession must change in order to be prepared to better serve those needs. This includes research and the ability to analyze and communicate data that can improve the lives of those we serve.”