Stony Brook University School of Nursing proudly admitted its first cohort of doctoral nursing students in September 2017. Although many of the courses offered in this program follow the traditional path of a foundational doctoral trajectory, being part of the Stony Brook University (SBU) offers the opportunity to tap unique resources. The research-oriented doctorate aims to prepare nurses for careers as nurse scientists and academicians. Courses in philosophy, concepts and theory, data management, research and statistical methods are essential to achieve this goal. By enhancing the existing program and creating new partnerships, three new courses have been developed that serve to enrich our students’ doctoral training experience in unique ways.
For example, “Integrating Big Data to Assess Population Health” was designed in collaboration with the Department of Biomedical Informatics (BMI), the seat of biomedical data science research and education at SBU. BMI’s mission is to advance biomedical knowledge and inspire and engage students and faculty to lead the development of concepts, methods and tools that will provide world-class and compassionate patient care. To capitalize on the rich resources of the BMI department, Pat Bruckenthal, PhD, APRN-BC, FAAN, professor and chair of the doctoral studies department at SON, partnered with Mary Saltz, MD, clinical assistant professor in the departments of Radiology and biomedical informatics and responsible for clinical integration for community practice initiatives.
Accessing large publicly available datasets and applying their use to solve public health problems was a natural fit for SON and BMI. The challenge in developing this course was how to provide our DOctal candidates have the skills to extract and visualize data without adding an additional three credit course in computer programming. Bruckenthal and Saltz contacted the SBU Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) program to explore a collaborative course. The VIP program is a project-based model that brings together undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members in multidisciplinary teams that work on long-term projects in the fields of research, design, innovation and entrepreneurship. It provides real context for coursework and develops professional, teamwork and leadership skills taught through experiential learning. “Integrating Population Informatics” was developed as a lab component for the course for parents. Using an interdisciplinary approach, students integrated various data sources for projects tailored to the specific interests of doctoral students. Undergraduate and masters students in computer science, computer engineering, nursing, biomedical informatics, biomedical engineering, and public health are invited to join the teams. These projects have the potential to improve health outcomes and guide health policy.
A second course unique to the SON doctoral program – the Alan Alda School for Science Communication – was established on the Stony Brook campus in 2009 to develop and nurture the communication skills of emerging scientists. It is aimed at scientists and health professionals to enable the acquisition of skills to communicate on complex topics in a clear and interesting way, which can improve the understanding of the public, the media, patients, elected officials and d ‘other people outside their own discipline. Our doctoral students take this multidisciplinary course with other health professionals.students to engage in theater-based improvisation techniques and media platforms combined with message design strategies such as distillation and storytelling to develop powerful communication skills for use in any what context. It is a natural fit for nurse leaders who are able to share and disseminate healthcare knowledge in impactful ways that have the potential to influence healthcare by expanding the reach of access to information and to have an impact on health policies.
The third way Bruckenthal developed courses and harnessed the rich resources of the SBU was the Research Practicum course. Doctoral students must join an existing research team within the university. They attend weekly meetings and participate as active members of a laboratory with the goal of applying a variety of principles of scientific integrity through experiential learning. For example, students were involved in applying the Institutional Review Board (IRB), developing regulatory binders, recruiting strategies, and developing protocols to establish “truth on the ground” for wireless sensing devices for healthcare applications. Their participation included research labs from the Department of Psychiatry, the Stony Brook Cancer Institute and the Department of Computer Science.
“These interdisciplinary experiences promote understanding of scientific integrity by our doctoral students,” said Bruckenthal. “They also inform and enrich a two-way understanding of the contributions of nursing science within the wider scientific community while looking towards future innovations. “
The results of these innovative courses have been remarkable. For example, the first cohort of doctoral students were invited to present their BMI project which explored large datasets in New York State to make the “Vaping and Use of Electronic Cigarettes in Adolescents” trend during plenary sessions within the biomedical informatics department. The VIP course developed the leadership and mentoring skills of the students and ended with a poster presentation for each of the three VIP projects. The university hosted the National Myalgic Encephalitis / Chronic Fatigue Conference in 2020 and a SON doctoral student presented a poster based on recruitment strategies in this patient population.
The blending of traditional core courses and innovative new courses leveraging the wider research community is a proven approach in preparing future nurse scientists at the Stony Brook School of Nursing.