Palmer highlights evidence-based practice

Palmer highlights evidence-based practice

Bernadette Melnyk, a mental health and evidence-based practice advocate, delivers the keynote speech at the Ruth K. Palmer Research Symposium at the Health Sciences Campus on April 5, 2024.

An internationally known advocate for evidence-based practice (EBP) in nursing told scientists at the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing’s annual research showcase that their work is critical to supporting the profession and improving patient outcomes.  

“Paradigm shifts take a long time to happen, but where we have gaps in our practice—that’s where we need to go to the researchers and say, help us generate this evidence,” said Bernadette Melnyk, a health, wellness, and nursing leader at The Ohio State University and keynote speaker at the 2024 Ruth K. Palmer Research Symposium.  

The annual event promotes nursing science and spotlights the work of MNSON’s growing research program, which has hired five tenure track faculty in the last two years and is increasingly competitive for prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding.    

At this year’s Palmer Symposium, held April 5 at Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Translational Research, Melnyk spoke on the importance of addressing mental health and transforming the nation’s health care system by preventing chronic illnesses.    

Much of her speech focused on EBP, the practice of treating patients based on current scientific research instead of relying on tradition. She described EBP as a “problem-solving approach” that needs more nurse scientists capable of doing rigorous clinical trials to generate evidence.  

She encouraged young researchers to think early about scalability and the business side of disseminating their interventions: “Most people who develop evidence-based programs never see them implemented.” 

Melnyk is vice president for health promotion and chief wellness officer at Ohio State, where she is the Helene Fuld Health Trust Professor of Evidence-based Practice at the College of Nursing. She previously held a dual role as the school’s dean and the University’s chief wellness officer.  

MNSON Dean Lorna Finnegan described Melnyk as the “guru of evidence-based practice,” adding that “her pioneering work has transformed the profession.”  

Melnyk recounted how a series of personal tragedies—starting at age 15 when her mother died suddenly in front of her following a stroke—triggered post-traumatic stress disorder but ultimately inspired her to become a nurse and earn her PhD. 

Today, Melnyk’s research-backed cognitive behavior therapy program, COPE (Creating Opportunities for Personal Empowerment), is widely used to treat children, teens, and young adults with anxiety or depression. 

Melnyk also spoke about burnout, noting that nurse scientists face significant pressure to earn NIH grants and publish in scholarly journals, while clinicians are leaving the profession due to overwork.  

She urged the audience to prioritize their physical and mental health and practice gratitude, challenging them to think expansively about their career impact: “What will you do if you know you cannot fail in the next two to five years?” 

This year’s Palmer Symposium was the 37th event in the series and drew attendees from MNSON, Loyola University Medical Center, and other regional universities.   

Provost Margaret Callahan, a MNSON graduate, noted that the Palmer Symposium was launched by Gladys Kiniery, MNSON dean from 1947 to 1966 and founder of its graduate nursing program.  

Kiniery, she said, “was an absolute visionary and pioneer in nursing education” who permanently funded the research event in honor of her sister.  

“Think about what it took for a dean in those days to say, ‘Nursing research is important and I want to support it by creating this Palmer endowment.’ To her, we are grateful,” Callahan said. 

Researchers spoke on topics including genomics-informed care, social network analysis, natural language processing in nursing, technology and teamwork, gut microbiome and low back pain, and the impact of toxic leadership within the profession.  

Meharvan Singh, Loyola’s vice provost for research, said the event helps communicate “critically important” research to nursing professionals, the community, and elected officials. 

The Palmer Symposium, he added, “speaks to the caliber of the program. This is really a celebration of all of you, of all that you do.” 

MNSON speakers were Amy Kiefer, Patricia Friend, Thao Griffith, Kristy Fuller, Barb O’Rourke, Paula de la Pena, and Leodoro Labrague. Other presenters were Gay Landstrom of Trinity Health, Peggy Norton-Rosko of Loyola Medicine Trinity Health, and Anitha Saravanan of Northern Illinois University.  

MNSON poster presenters were Lisa Burkhart, Anne Cahill, Joanne Dunderdale, Carol Kostovich, Dhara Mehta, Elizabeth Reynolds, Ginger Schroers, Phyllis Ann Solari-Twadell, and Jo-Anne Tierney.