From the staff development bookshelf: What is staff development research? Part 1

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, September 16, 2011

Staff development research may be defined as an organized, systematic approach to identifying and resolving problems related to staff development practice. It is conducted to assess the effectiveness of education interventions, to provide EBP for the specialty of staff development, and to add to the unique body of knowledge that is staff development.

How does staff development research help solidify both the staff development department and individual staff development practitioners? Research is about having a positive impact on future practice that is based on scientific evidence. Research should foster a culture of staff development excellence. Such excellence should, in turn, translate into measureable evidence of staff development's impact on the organization.

Research findings provide evidence of what does, and what does not work in staff development. Staff development research is closely linked to clinical research since the focus of research in education is to determine what education strategies improve job performance, which in turn improves patient outcomes.

For example, suppose a staff nurse approaches the nurse researcher with the question, "How does staff communication influence the behavior of disruptive patients and families in the emergency department?" This is a good way for staff development personnel to become involved in research that highlights both education and clinical outcomes. In collaboration with the nurse researcher and the ED staff, current communication patterns can be observed and analyzed with regard to their impact on disruptive patients and families. An education program can be developed and implemented based on this analysis. Following education of ED staff, communication patterns can be observed and analyzed using the same methods as before the education took place. Ideally, communication will be enhanced and disruptive behaviors and their negative consequences diminished. Also ideally, the communication program can be offered to other departments and its impact analyzed to determine if communication can be improved throughout the organization.

The point is that collaboration among staff development, researchers, and clinical staff can help to improve job performance and patient outcomes. This kind of endeavor enhances the culture of staff development in several ways, the most obvious being that of improving the organization's effectiveness. But research also implies a sophistication of practice. Using research findings to enhance practice fosters not only an enthusiasm for the research process but for actively pursuing excellence at advanced levels of practice.

Next week's issue of Staff Development Weekly will examine potential topics to explore.

Source: Book excerpt adapted from The Survival of Staff Development: Measure Outcomes and Demonstrate Value to Establish an Indispensable Department by Adrianne E. Avillion, DEd, RN.

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