Professor Liz Halcomb. Photo by Paul Jones.

IHMRI researcher Professor Liz Halcomb will be inducted into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Melbourne in July.

Article by Ben Long

Professor Halcomb, Inaugural Professor of Primary Health Care Nursing at UOW’s School of Nursing, is the only Australian and one of 20 honourees selected from around the world to receive the honour.

Created in 2010 by the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma), the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame recognises nurse researchers who have achieved significant and sustained national or international recognition and whose research has improved the profession and the people it serves.

“Each of these Hall of Fame honourees represents a lifetime of contribution to the nursing profession,” Sigma President Beth Baldwin Tigges said.

Professor Halcomb was chosen for her world-class research on primary care nursing, the positive influence it has had on policy and on the health outcomes of consumers, and for her work in mixed methods research and mentoring of students and early career researchers.

“It’s exciting to get international recognition because while you know the work you do is meaningful at a local level, this shows that what you’re doing is meaningful on a larger scale,” Professor Halcomb said.

“It means the work has been recognised as high quality and for making a difference to nursing and health care.”

Professor Halcomb comes from a family of nurses and has two sisters who are nurses. But while they were hospital trained, she was the first in her family to study at university, completing her Bachelor of Nursing in 1995. After working as a clinical nurse for 10 years, she returned to university to study for a PhD and found she had an affinity for research.

“When I did my PhD there weren’t many nurses in primary care, so I was fortunate enough to start a PhD in that area at the boom time,” she said.

“Between starting my PhD in 2003 and now the number of nurses working in general practice has grown from around 2,000 to more than 12,000, so it’s really taken off.”

One of the major themes of Professor Halcomb’s research is the primary care nursing workforce and the roles that nurses in primary care undertake.

“Because nurses haven’t worked in Australian primary care for very long we need to establish what they can do – and that they can do more than just take a blood pressure or complete set tasks for the doctor,” she says.

“It’s really important to make sure nurses are working to the full extent of the nursing scope of practice. If they’re not doing as much as they can, they’re less likely to be happy in their jobs and the patients aren’t going to get the best outcomes.”

Professor Halcomb has led a number of major national studies around the nursing workforce in Australian general practice.

“Mapping which nurses are in primary care, what their role is, what their needs are, how satisfied they are in their work and with their conditions has been a key contribution I have made,” Professor Halcomb said.

The other major focus of Professor Halcomb’s primary care research is on chronic disease management and lifestyle risk reduction.

“That involves looking at how we can keep people healthier longer; how we can keep them at home, keep them well, reduce their lifestyle risk factors and reduce the onset of chronic disease, as well as how we can manage chronic disease better in the community.”

Professor Halcomb was also recognised for her expertise in mixed methods research. This methodological approach involves the integration of statistical and text data to develop deeper insight into a research problem.

“While a growing number of nurses are using mixed methods to address complex research problems, I have been involved in exploring a range of issues around the methodology and how this approach can be effectively implemented in nursing research,” Professor Halcomb said.

Perhaps the contribution to nursing research that Professor Halcomb is most proud of is the role she has played in mentoring other researchers.

“I really love working with PhD students and early career researchers; they are our future and we need to invest in them and make sure they are well supported,” she said.

“It’s great to be able to develop a cohort of students all working in the private care area. We encourage them to network and to work together and learn from each other. Learning to work as part of a team is an important part of the PhD, as well as doing their own projects and developing their own academic skills.

“One of the differences about the primary care research we do here in the School of Nursing is that it is nurse led. There’s a lot of research about primary care nurses that is undertaken by doctors, so having nurses developing nursing research is an important step in building research capacity within our profession.”

Sigma will induct 20 nurse researchers into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame at its 29th International Nursing Research Congress in Melbourne, Australia, July 10 to 23.


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