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Well-Being & Resilience in the Nurse Corps

Embracing the power of research and leadership to foster well-being and resilience for individuals and organizations.

The sustainability of the military medical workforce requires individual and organizational focus on fostering the well-being and resilience of military healthcare professionals. It is critical for military health science researchers to investigate and generate new knowledge to guide individuals in fostering their well-being and resilience in collaboration with organizations. Collaboration improves individual, team, and organizational well-being and resilience. This article describes my journey of obtaining my Ph.D. and finding my research area of interest: Navy Nurse Corps well-being and resilience. I hope to inspire others to embrace the power of research and lead in a way that fosters well-being and resilience at both the individual and organizational level.

Stumbling Upon My Passion

I enjoyed bedside nursing so immensely I was initially nervous about furthering my professional development and feared losing the joy and connection to purpose and meaning. However, I am an advocate for professional development, which drove me to apply for DUINS. While completing my master’s in nursing, I was assigned a clinical nurse specialist/nurse practitioner preceptor who had obtained her Ph.D. I witnessed firsthand how she incorporated her research into her daily activities as a provider, mentor, and leader. She inspired me to engage nurses at the bedside in my research and Evidence-Based Practice initiatives and set a future goal of working towards my Ph.D. This goal became a reality when I was privileged enough to be selected a second time for DUINS. The first challenge was identifying my research area of interest.

Identifying My Research Area of Interest

I can very easily get excited about any research topic. However, I couldn't shake the need to contribute to nursing science by generating new knowledge focused on the well-being and resilience of the Navy Nurse Corps. My interest in well-being and resilience started as a staff nurse, where I witnessed fellow nurses navigating adversity in the workplace. My interest grew as I progressed in my career and professional development. Serving as a clinical nurse specialist and division officer, my duty was to ensure that staff had resources and skills to care for the patient population. Just as important, it was my duty as a leader to ensure staff had resources and skills to provide for their own well-being and resilience. Despite the importance of nurse well-being and resilience, there is a lack of empirical evidence on how nurses foster their well-being and resilience. Of particular note is the lack of evidence describing military nurses' experiences providing care to patients and how they foster their well-being and resilience.

The Rewarding Impact of Qualitative Research

Given the paucity in the literature, I set out to explore how Navy Nurse Corps officers experience, assess, and respond to daily tasks and adversity within their workplace. I conducted a qualitative research study utilizing Constructivist Grounded Theory to explore and gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of fostering Navy Nurse Corps well-being and resilience. Constructivist Grounded Theory allows for multiple forms of data to be collected (e.g., observations, interviews, surveys, etc.). However, the primary source of data collection for my dissertation was semi-structured interviews.

I recruited and conducted interviews with 25 Navy Nurse Corps officers from 11 different units within a large military treatment facility ranging in rank from ensign to lieutenant commander. Conducting the interviews provided me with a resurge of purpose and meaning. I left each interview feeling very privileged the participants agreed to share their experiences with me. Officers had a collective story that helped fill the gap in knowledge related to fostering well-being and resilience in the Navy Nurse Corps.

Through the data analysis, I constructed a definition of how Navy Nurse Corps officers define well-being and a theory on how they foster individual well-being. In addition, officers identified several factors which served as facilitators and barriers to fostering well-being and resilience. Of note, officers identified leadership as one of the most salient facilitators. The study showed leaders who are supportive, have a presence in the workplace, take an interest in their sailors, are approachable, model self-care, and show vulnerability are able to connect their sailors to the mission, address disruptive behaviors, and minimize change on arrival, and foster well-being and resilience in the Navy Nurse Corps. One of the most salient barriers was disruptive behaviors such as bullying and disrespect. However, as previously mentioned, a leader who effectively addresses these behaviors can mitigate the effect of this barrier. The research findings indicate that leaders within Navy medicine and the Navy Nurse Corps play a pivotal role in fostering individual and organizational well-being and resilience.

Disseminating and Building on the Evidence

Dissemination is a central component of nurse‐led research and knowledge translation. A research study is not complete until the study findings are disseminated via presentations at professional forums, published in a peer‐reviewed journal, and recommendations regarding how the research findings could be translated into clinical practice are made. I have had the pleasure of discussing my research findings and disseminating my work throughout several venues during and after my Ph.D. journey. These dissemination efforts made it possible for me to connect and network with individuals and to build on my research findings through collaboration on future projects. For example, I am working on the data analysis of a follow-on study from my dissertation focused on the prevalence of well-being, resilience, and moral resilience within Navy Nurse Corps. Additionally, I recently finished developing a mixed-method study exploring the prevalence and culture of horizontal violence among healthcare professionals serving at a large military treatment facility.

I am looking forward to continued efforts and contributions to this important body of science focused on fostering the well-being and resilience of Navy Nurse Corps officers. Through continued growth as a health science researcher and collaborations with experts, military nurses, and scientists, I aspire to build a body of evidence to guide individuals, leaders, and organizations in fostering the well-being and resilience of the military medical workforce.


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