Supporting nursing research and evidence to underpin policy dialogue and system transformation

Central to the nursing profession leading transformational change is the use of evidence-based practice. In England we have a wealth of nursing research talent, recognised nationally and internationally. More recently these colleagues have demonstrated that there has never been such a need for nursing research capacity and capability to be front and centre.

As we move to the required new ways of working, daily challenge to ensure nursing practice is responding to rapidly changing patient and staff need is one of the early cultural changes to be seen within our ‘new normal’. Detailed consideration and examination of our practice which although previously understood as important and key to the delivery of care, has now become more formally embedded in everyday operational processes, and we need to ensure as a profession that this continues.

To help embed this way of working, we are developing the Chief Nursing Officer for England’s (CNO) national strategy for supporting, developing and embedding research 2020-2022. The strategy runs concurrently with our commitment to ensuring that the important contribution of nursing academia is fully recognised and supported as being integral to the success of transformation.

The CNO’s strategy aims to ensure that nursing research and evidence helps drive policy and underpin system transformation. Ensuring the leadership of the profession to the achievement of Long Term Plan ambitions, and more recently, to relevant COVID-19 legacy work.

To realise these ambitions, we will continue to work collaboratively with a wide range of our partners and stakeholders to help address the importance of nursing research and the use of findings across the system. We will further develop the previous work undertaken with the Council of Deans of Health and academic colleagues in building a national nursing research portfolio which sets out a collection of research studies that offer a cross section of studies that demonstrate practice and research leadership and impact at diverse research expertise levels. They demonstrate the impact and contribution that nursing, midwifery and care staff can make to transforming health and care.

We will also continue to work alongside the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and build on work such as the document published earlier this year jointly with the NIHR Dissemination Centre ‘Leading the acceleration of evidence into practice; a guide for executive nurses’.

It is this partnership approach in addition to our work with many others, that will ensure the vision and ambition reflects those of academic colleagues, working alongside providers and commissioners and other partners as a fundamental component of the strategy for research.

The Collective Leadership Atlas of Shared Learning, where case studies from the professions provide quantifiable evidence of how change has been led by identifying and addressing unwarranted variation in practice to improve outcomes, experience and use of resources.

In the coming weeks, we will be launching a ‘Catalogue of Change’ to complement these evidence-based collections: this will share recent practice experiences and innovations at the point of care in response to the pandemic.

Nurse-led practice has been at the centre of the national COVID-19 response and we want to ensure we learn from this and use those experiences to inform our work going forwards. Many of the examples are emerging from CNO Shared Decision-Making Councils which bring together nurses sharing their learning and experience.

I am delighted that this work is now able to formally commence with the appointment of two senior nurse researchers joining our team. We will be sharing our thinking and asking for help to then shape it, implement and embed. If you would like to get involved in the CNO’s research strategy work then please do contact to ensure that you are kept up to date and aware of the upcoming relevant opportunities.

A request is also that if there are any current nurse-led research programmes or pieces of work that it would be useful for us to be aware of, as we start to build the foundation of this work; particularly if established in response to COVID-19, please do get in touch. I look forward to working together on this exciting commitment in our leadership approach to supporting the huge importance of research in nursing.

Susan Aitkenhead

Susan Aitkenhead is a Deputy Chief Nursing Officer to Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England and supports CNO on matters linked to professional regulation, education, research, and collective leadership. This is in addition to the work with ministers, government officials, professional regulators, royal colleges, professional bodies and the Devolved Administrations to help shape policy and decision making.

Susan was previously a Director of Nursing at NHS England leading on a range of work aligned to system and service transformation at national, regional and local levels.

Susan is a registered nurse with extensive clinical, operational and strategic experience within healthcare across a variety of settings; and provider and commissioning executive and non-executive Board roles within both the UK and overseas.

She has also worked in a variety of other national roles such as at the Department of Health providing advice and support to ministers and policy officials across central government departments, and in professional regulation across the UK at the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Twitter: @SAitke