How important is it these days to be interdisciplinary in your research?

Our profession went through a period where it was important to accentuate nursing research because we were collectively trying to demonstrate to others and ourselves the unique contributions nurse scientists could make in finding “answers” to important healthcare questions. During this period, what is now the National Institute of Nursing Research was established and journals/annuals devoted to nursing research were founded to showcase nursing research. Now that professionals and the public alike have a better handle on the kinds of scientific contributions nurses can make, the focus is less on proving what we can do and more on integrating what we do into larger understandings of complex matters. All along the best scientists went from asking questions generated by their discipline-specific perspective—e.g., something about how parental attitudes affect chronic-illness management in young children with epilepsy—only to realize that the experience was more complicated than originally understood—that’s when the nurse scientist added a school psychologist and neurologist to her research team in order to understand the older child’s perspective and more about seizures. As the team became more interdisciplinary so did the presentations and publications. This normal progression from (a) looking at an issue from the perspective of a nurse, to (b) looking more broadly at the phenomenon under study is only accelerating as we build the knowledge base.

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