The Nursing Research Fund empowers nurses to improve patient care

April 13, 2021 Providence Health Team

Providence Holy Cross clinical nurse Elizabeth Mayfield, RN, speaking on nurse-patient respect at the National Nursing Ethics Conference in Los Angeles, March 2019. 


A few years ago, a nurse at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center conducted research that showed how instituting a period of quiet time in the maternity ward every day helped new mothers successfully breastfeed. Today, this is standard practice at the medical center. For two hours each day, lights are dimmed and visits from lab technicians and other specialists are limited, allowing new moms to focus on feeding and bonding with their infants.  

This is just one of many research projects conducted by working nurses who’ve participated in the medical center’s Nursing Research Fellowship Program, which has resulted in improved patient care. The program is directed by Sherri Mendelson, PhD, who also directs the Magnet Program.  

“As of right now, our nurses are conducting research to see how aromatherapy can contribute to palliative care and ways to mitigate trauma and stress for nurses in the COVID unit, and we’re studying music therapy for oncology patients,” says Mendelson, a Chicago native who has spent 25 of her 43 years in nursing at Providence Holy Cross.  

“We want to make sure that nurses not only have the opportunity to learn the basics of research but also that they can be on the front lines creating the evidence to make sure our patient care is the best possible,” she says.

Nurses of all experience levels are encouraged to apply to the program, where they can learn the steps of structuring their own research projects and not be intimidated by the process.  

The goals are to teach nurses how to conduct research and develop new ways to improve patient outcomes—and then disseminate the results throughout the region’s medical community and beyond.  

When completed, the research projects are submitted for publication in professional nursing journals. One published study looked at how nurses and patients of different backgrounds define courtesy and respect—essential for good communication in communities with racially and culturally diverse populations.  

Supporting nurses helps patients  

Professional development for nurses is critical to the quality of patient care, and that’s exactly why the Found Penny Foundation chose to generously donate to the Nursing Research Fellowship Program, says Michelle Koenig Barritt, chief philanthropy officer at Providence Holy Cross.

Believing that people make the difference in compassionate care, the foundation wanted to invest in nurses rather than medical equipment. “The nursing and research program really spoke to them,” says Barritt.  

The Nursing Research Fellowship Program is one example of how Providence Holy Cross meets the Magnet Recognition Program designation criteria, one of which is that hospital leadership must enable nurses to do the best job possible. “It’s about promoting best practices within nursing to demonstrate excellent care,” explains Mendelson. 

Learn more about the Providence Nursing Institute in Southern California here.  

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The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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