Handover | Issue 42 - July 2018 

A discussion of research in the context of the Mental Health Nursing Framework.

In 2006, the importance of a mental health research culture within many service provider organisations was not yet a priority. The framework stated that, “It is imperative for mental health nurses to develop and be part of a research culture to ensure they provide the best nursing care to consumers of their services.

Furthermore, for a profession to remain viable and valued it needs to provide evidence of the effectiveness of its members’ practice” (MOH, 2006, p.54). 

In 2006, the framework’s situational analysis on the state of mental health nursing research revealed the following: 

Mental health nursing research had been promoted by the Ministry of Health and two Chairs of Mental Health Nursing were funded. One professor had been appointed at the University of Auckland and alongside this appointment, the School of Nursing had hosted the development of a faculty-wide multidisciplinary Centre for Mental Health Research, Policy and Service Development (CMHRPSD). There was originally a focus on joint chairs between academia and clinical practice. 

Mental health nursing research was reported to be an integral part of the work of the Centre for Evidence-based Nursing Aotearoa (CEBNA). CEBNA promoted an evidence-based approach to improve the effectiveness of clinical practice and positively influence health outcomes. 

  • Growing numbers of mental health masters and PhD students throughout the country had led to increasing research collaboration between education and clinical providers. 
  • Education representatives noted difficulties securing competitive research funding. 
  • There was recognition of the need to collaborate with experienced researchers. It was suggested that a multi-centre collaboration between postgraduate mental health nursing educators, mental health nursing leaders in practice and service users, be developed to provide a focus for mental health nursing research in New Zealand to improve clinical practice and health outcomes and raise scholarship funds for research students. 
  • Some DHB and NGO representatives reported that the research culture in their organisations was mainly reliant on individual nurses undertaking postgraduate education. 
  • Some organisations were supporting the development of journal clubs and research forums, and/or attendance and presentations at national and international conferences.
  • Several nurses reported they were unaware of a research culture in their organisations. 
  • Pasifika nurses reported a newly developing research culture and a real commitment to developing it further. 

The framework made two recommendations:  

  • The Ministry of Health should make seeding funds available for mental health nursing research projects. 
  • Professional bodies should establish mental health research networks. 

Stakeholders' impressions of current situation, in summary were: 

  • Research not explicitly evident. 
  • No traction with the funding of mental health nursing research projects. 
  • Funding is bound within a very competitive scarce resource. 
  • Designated money for research is needed to create the necessary understandings to drive better practice and outcomes for service users. 
  • Difficulty in attracting research funding should be addressed. 
  • Strategies to attract and retain academic mental health and addiction nurses, and those in the area of intellectual disability are needed. 
  • If the research just falls on the researchers without the resource to sustain a research infrastructure, we are never going to get there. 
  • Te Ao Māramatanga - NZCMHN had a research section and a small amount of contestable research funding is available each year. Māori Caucus has made a significant contribution to the nursing historical literature with the Tuia Te Ao Mārama (Oral history) project.  
  • Research networks are in place but need to be strengthened with service providers.  
  • Directors of Mental Health Nurses and Te Ao Māramatanga – NZCMHNs strategic partnership with tertiary providers could work together to support a research network. 
  • A national centre for mental health research, which focuses on key practice issues that cut across regional and institutional barriers is needed. 
  • Need to attract mental health nursing academics. 
  • Strengthening interdisciplinary research opportunities and partnership opportunities for research between researchers and service providers – inclusive of masters and PhD research activities. 
  • Development of funding mechanisms between academic institutions and service providers in addition to Health Research Council research grants. 

Where to from here? 

The impression is that a mental health research culture within many service provider organisations is still not yet a priority. Some mental health nursing research occurs with the limited funding available however research networks need strengthening. 

The Ministry of Health’s recent strategy (Health research strategy, 2016) indicates that universities and clinical practice need to collaborate to a greater extent. One way of ensuring greater collaboration and networking between academia and practice is to develop a national centre to support mental health nurses to ensure they are best able to support the people they serve.