The primary purpose of nursing research is to create science that informs nursing practice, allowing nurses to provide the best care to their patients. Nurse scientists can help ensure that findings from nursing research studies are adapted into everyday patient care. They stay involved in practice and share findings with nurses engaged in direct patient care, and with those who have input into the development of clinical practice guidelines and standards.

Including direct care nurses in the design and implementation of studies ensures clinical relevance and feasibility and helps facilitate rapid integration of nursing research findings into clinical practice.

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Mayo Clinic nurse scientists seek solutions to complex health care needs among patients and their caregivers. Research falls into three broad categories:

  • Caregiving science
  • Self-management science
  • Symptom science

Research findings are used to improve the health and well-being of patients. The Mayo Clinic nursing research model serves as a guide for the conduct of clinical research in these three distinct scientific areas in a practice-based setting.

Caregiving science

Care interventions for caregivers

Lead researcher: Sherry S. Chesak, Ph.D., M.S., R.N.

Clinicians are at high risk of experiencing stress and burnout, which has consequences at both the personal and professional level, including a negative impact on patient care. In addition, care partners — family, friends, others — take on major responsibilities in patient care. The latter, often thrust into their roles unexpectedly, tend to experience high levels of care burden.

Research on care for the caregiver is particularly focused on investigating resilience-promoting interventions for both professional caregivers and care partners. It also involved developing and evaluating methods to engender a sense of belonging among health care workers.

Self-management science

Using technology to support patient health care choices

Lead researcher: Elizabeth E. Umberfield, Ph.D., R.N.

Every day, patients make choices about the care they receive. These can include decisions about how they allow health care teams to handle their biospecimens and health information. Dr. Umberfield's research program centers on making these choices discoverable, interpretable, actionable and interoperable throughout the digital health information ecosystem. Her research prioritizes patients' agency and patient-centered systems.

Symptom self-management in adults with inflammatory bowel disease

Lead researcher: Samantha Conley, Ph.D., R.N.

People with many chronic conditions face a high symptom burden, and the daily management of their symptoms is challenging. Symptom self-management research aims to better understand how symptoms co-occur in people with chronic conditions. Researchers also study how people living with chronic conditions can better self-manage their symptoms using behavioral interventions to improve their daily functioning and quality of life.

Toxicities of cancer therapies and psychosocial concerns and decision-making at end of life

Lead researcher: Cindy Tofthagen, Ph.D., ARNP, AOCNP, FAANP, FAAN

Cancer treatments have side effects that create significant physical, emotional, and financial burdens for patients as well as their families. The goal of this research is to find effective ways to prevent or treat these side effects and help patients better manage side effects at home. This includes specific emphasis on:

  • Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy
  • Psychological distress associated with cancer
  • Pain related to cancer treatment

Symptom science

Delirium prevention and symptom management in older adults

Lead researcher: Heidi L. Lindroth, Ph.D., R.N.

Nurse scientists improve patient outcomes through holistic scientific discovery that considers the whole health care team, including the patient and family, as part of the discovery-translation-application cycle.

Gut microbiome link to chemotherapy-induced nausea

Lead researcher: Komal P. Singh, Ph.D., R.N.

Patients with cancer experience several neuropsychological and gastrointestinal symptoms during and after treatment. Debilitating symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Cognitive changes
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Nausea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Change in taste

Investigating patient risk factors associated with these symptom experiences can help identify people at high risk for symptom burden. In addition, omics-based methodologies can help pinpoint underlying biological mechanisms associated with patient symptoms.

A multidisciplinary team at Mayo Clinic is collaborating with additional world-renowned academic institutions to investigate associations between oncology patient symptom experiences and chemotherapy-induced changes in the microbiome-gut-brain axis. Identifying precise changes in patients most at risk of experiencing debilitating symptoms after chemotherapy can help in developing targeted interventions to alleviate the adverse side effects of oncology treatments.

Symptom management for patients on mechanical ventilators in the ICU

Lead researcher: Linda L. Chlan, Ph.D., R.N., ATSF, FAAN

Research in this area develops and tests interventions to help patients manage feelings of anxiety. Patients often feel anxiety when receiving mechanical ventilatory support in the intensive care unit (ICU). Our research team seeks solutions for how to best assess and empower patients to co-manage or self-manage symptoms safely while in the ICU.