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Exploring the Challenges and Facilitators of Nursing Faculty Engagement in Applied Research in College and Polytechnic Institutions and the Role of Library Services

By H. Kathleen R. White-Williams, Lyle G. Grant, Chau Ha, and Madeline Press

Increasingly, nursing faculty working in previously non-research intensive teaching and learning institutions are encouraged or required to engage in scholarship activities of discovery and applied research. Research activity is also required for CASN accreditation. Applied research engagement of nursing faculty in colleges and polytechnics increases opportunity for focus on practice-initiated, clinically relevant questions affecting nursing practices, pragmatic questions relevant to the communities nursing serves, and development of new knowledge related to nursing education. Little empirical evidence exists that identifies the factors that support or challenge college and polytechnic faculty members to engage in research and what roles libraries play.

Working collaboratively, Saskatchewan Polytechnic and the School of Health Sciences at Humber College ITAL undertook a “first of its kind” project to empirically examine how nursing faculty at Canadian colleges and polytechnic institutions perceive of and report challenges and facilitators of research engagement. Three phases of examination included a literature review, survey tool development, and a Canada-wide cross-sectional survey. Our literature review suggested that the domains of culture of research (attitudes, beliefs, behaviours, peer group influences), institutional supports/structures (infrastructure, networks, start-up funding, time, collective agreements, leadership, mentorship) and individual characteristics (confidence, self-efficacy, sense of empowerment) may contain important factors to understanding how best to influence research engagement.


The literature review informed structuring survey variables to help answer the research questions:

  1. What were the important challenges and facilitators to engaging nursing faculty in research at a vocational or polytechnic institute 
  2. How do these factors impact the production of applied research, and
  3. Within these challenges and facilitators, what important roles did library services play?

Survey invitations were emailed to undergraduate nursing program faculty members in 53 colleges and polytechnic institutions across the country. Data collection occurred from May 1st to December 1st 2015. Descriptive statistics were compiled for all the data. Preliminary results confirm in the Canadian context many of the challenges and facilitators identified in the literature. Prominent were the challenges of time, a willingness to engage in conducting research and hone skills. Nearly 70% of the participants had no research plan, and over one-half did not know or did not believe the conduct of research was important to job retention. Through the process of conducting this research, researchers also uncovered challenges present in Canadian colleges and polytechnics that qualitatively inform findings. Results offer assistance to leaders at colleges and polytechnics in deploying resources to maximize research productivity within nursing programs and help identify faculty learning needs.