Research showcase

January 12, 2016

IMAGE_STORY_Bugess_PintoBeyond the bedside

Nursing today is far from the task-oriented role of days gone by, so it makes sense that research too is about much more than the best way to change a dressing or treat a symptom.

“Too often people think nurses are focused only on the physical aspects of people’s lives,” says Elizabeth Burgess-Pinto, a faculty member in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, who says that today’s nurses must look beyond the clinical. “They need to understand contextual issues in families—how families function and how different populations function, without slotting people into boxes.”

That means moving beyond cultural competence—looking at people of different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds as groups, which can perpetuate preconceptions rather than expand thought—and instead look at experiences. This is where Elizabeth’s research comes in.

Elizabeth is fascinated by migration and immigration. A child immigrant herself, she spent years involved in research about immigration, including coordinating a six-year longitudinal survey of immigrant children and youth, and their families. Her own research also revolves around immigration—in particular, collecting narratives around the experiences of immigrant fathers of teenage daughters.

“Hearing their stories is fascinating,” says Elizabeth. “There are a lot of misconceptions about fathers of teenage daughters, especially immigrant fathers. I saw it myself when I worked in pediatrics and neonatal intensive care for a number of years. There were often stereotypes. Understanding what dads are thinking and experiencing as their children grow up can inform the contextual piece of nursing—breaking stereotypes and changing the ways nurses think and practice to be more inclusive.”

And that inclusivity is something Elizabeth says only becomes more critical in our current era of “superdiversity.”

“People come into health-care settings with many different things influencing them,” she says. “Instead of slotting people into categories—immigrant, disabled or LGBTQ—we need to look at the determinants of health for that particular person at that particular time, how their social, economic and physical environments, and their individual experiences and behaviours, intersect.”

So Elizabeth hopes to expand her research to include perspectives from other family members—mothers, aunts and uncles, or grandparents. She’s also embarking on a research project that will take a critical look at reflective practice in nursing: how students study their own experiences so they can improve and learn from them. And there’s also the potential for research on leadership, policy and communication in partnership with Ternopil State Medical University and the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

“Nursing is like that,” says Elizabeth. “It has the potential to reach out in so many different directions.”

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