You could say he was pushed into research!
After earning a PhD in biological sciences, the author reconsidered a career in nursing. That led to research and induction in the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame.
To some extent, nursing was “in my blood.” An aunt to whom I was very close and with whom I lived a long time was a senior nurse, and her oldest brother, also a nurse, was married to a nurse. Another aunt worked as a nursing assistant, and my mother had long expressed that her single ambition was to be a nurse. Although she never qualified as a nurse, she once worked as a nursing assistant. So, when I went to The University of Edinburgh to study biological sciences, I used my contacts to secure a summer job as a nursing assistant and loved every minute of it.
During my time at the university, I worked in the hospital for a total of 12 months and strongly considered becoming a registered nurse when I graduated. But the opportunity and funding for earning a PhD in the famous biochemistry department of the University of Sheffield got in the way. After completing my PhD, I had a crisis regarding my future. Doing laboratory work for the remainder of my working life simply did not appeal to me.
The right decision
One day, I had a flash of inspiration and decided to revisit my old idea of becoming a registered nurse. I gained a place as a graduate entry at St. George’s Hospital, London. Having met the future Mrs. Watson, who preceded me to London, I spent a glorious three years in South London. I knew I had made the right decision to enter nursing, and I have never for a moment regretted it.
At the point of qualifying, I began to think about jobs. I was casually looking at the employment pages of New Scientist—not imagining I would see anything relevant for me—when I saw an opportunity to lead a research project on pressure sore treatment at the Nursing Practice Research Unit in London. I had no idea this place existed. I had never applied for a job in my life, but I applied for this one and got it. But my lack of clinical responsibility and experience showed, and the UK government department that funded the research proved very hard for me to work with. The unit was eventually relocated, and I took that as an opportune time to resign.
Following a few years in London working in various capacities—none of them nursing but all involving travel and writing—Mrs. Watson and I decided to relocate to my native Scotland. I returned to nursing in a long-stay unit for older people, where I worked for three years and progressed to the position of charge nurse. Although I was one of very few nurses in clinical practice with a PhD, I did not aim to undertake research. However, my clinical nurse manager, who also had a PhD, dragged me kicking and screaming back into research.
My initial project, a trial to test equipment for managing urinary incontinence in older men, resulted in two articles in Journal of Advanced Nursing. They were my introduction to that journal—of which I am now editor-in-chief—and the world of academic publishing.
While conducting research on urinary incontinence, I observed that older people with dementia had nutritional deficiencies and eating problems that required nurse assistance. Helping people eat took up a great deal of nursing time and caused nurses, patients, and relatives considerable distress. We didn’t know how to assist effectively. I began to study this problem and planned, while still in practice, to conduct research on it, but another opportunity arose.
The University of Edinburgh advertised for a nurse with a degree in biology to teach life sciences to nursing degree students. My clinical nurse manager told me to apply—again I was reluctant—and I got the job. Thus began more than 25 years of clinical research stemming directly from my days in clinical practice.
My research career
My research has advanced knowledge clinically, globally, and methodologically. My clinical research has focused almost entirely on eating problems and nutritional concerns related to older people with dementia. I published one of the earliest reviews of dementia-related eating difficulty and developed the EdFED (Edinburgh Feeding Evaluation in Dementia) Scale. It remains the only internationally validated instrument and is widely used in many countries as an outcome measure in both epidemiological and intervention studies. I conducted the first properly powered randomized controlled trial of an intervention to alleviate eating difficulty, and I am still involved in these investigations.
Stemming from that work, I have developed a large strand of research focusing on the use of nonparametric item response theory (Mokken scaling), which I have applied to other measures of clinical function. I have also contributed to some basic research related to development of Mokken scaling, particularly regarding the issue of determining sample size.
Beyond these studies, I have long had an interest in nursing workforce development and have studied stress, burnout, the influence of coping, and personality. Presently, I am principal investigator on a project investigating factors that could ease the transition from nursing student to newly qualified nurse with a view to increasing retention of nurses during their the first year of employment. Having great collaborators across the world has been a key factor in maintaining my interest in research.
International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame
I was nominated to the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame in 2017 by Phi Mu Chapter, the first Sigma chapter chartered in England. In 2013, I was honored to give a keynote address at its inaugural event. I was aware of the decision to nominate me and took part in preparing the application. If you aspire to induction into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame, it is essential to learn the latest criteria for qualifying and to contact previous successful nominees. Ask them to share their application documents with you, and ask them to review yours.
The process of applying for entry is no time for modesty. If you think you meet the criteria—they are detailed and specific—you probably do. But you must sell yourself. And don’t worry about misrepresentation; your claims must all be supported by evidence. So, stick to the facts, but don’t think any of your achievements or influence are too trivial, and don’t assume they “speak for themselves.”
Remember, it is a lifetime award, and you must look back over your whole career. The criteria are not simply how much you have personally achieved in terms of research income and publications—the judges also want evidence of how your research has made a difference and how you have had a positive impact on others through mentorship and supervision.
For me, the best thing about being inducted into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame is that, when people introduce me as a speaker at conferences, they refer to my induction. This happened most recently in September, when I gave a keynote at Sigma’s Emerging Global Healthcare Leadership Symposium in London.
Since my induction, I have been appointed visiting professor, University of Hong Kong, and visiting professor, Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China. I have also been appointed under the High-End Foreign Expert Program—a highly competitive award funded by the Chinese government—to work at Wuhan Polytechnic University, Hubei Province, China, over the next three years.
Outside the nursing profession, the National Conference of University Professors appointed me as a council member in 2018. I continue as editor-in-chief of Journal of Advanced Nursing, now known as JAN, and editor of Nursing Open. I travel extensively and have the privilege of contributing a blog for Reflections on Nursing Leadership titled “Connecting continents.” I am very pleased to be an International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame inductee and to be viewed in the same light as other leaders in the field, many of whose achievements outweigh mine. RNL
Roger Watson, PhD, RN, FRCP Edin, FRCN, FAAN, professor of nursing at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom and a frequent visitor to Australia and China, where he holds visiting positions, is editor-in-chief of JAN and editor of Nursing Open. His Reflections on Nursing Leadership blog, “Connecting continents,” appears frequently in the magazine.
Editor’s note: The International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame award, first presented in 2010 by Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma), honors nurse researchers who have achieved significant and sustained national and/or international recognition for their work and whose research has influenced the profession and the people it serves. The induction ceremony during the 30th International Nursing Research Congress, 25-29 July 2019, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, will mark the 10th presentation of the award.
Nominations are now open, and the nominating deadline is 11 December 2018. All active Sigma members worldwide are eligible. Current members of the Sigma board of directors, Sigma staff, Sigma consultants and contracted staff, and members of the judging committee are not eligible. Click here for more information.