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Lessons learned in building a successful nursing research career

Jul 12, 2021
By Guylaine Spencer

Jenny Ploeg

A lot goes in to building a successful research career, and few know this better than Dr. Jenny Ploeg, professor and scientific director of the Aging, Community and Health Research Unit at McMaster University.

Ploeg has just recently retired from her position as professor in the School of Nursing. On June 29, 2021, she presented a webinar for the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario’s Nursing Research Interest Group (NRIG). The title of the talk was: Lessons learned in building a successful nursing research career.

Ploeg summarized her main five points as:

  • Build on your passion
  • Create a collaborative team
  • Follow the flow of funding
  • Write, write, write
  • Find a mentor, be a mentor  

She then expanded on each point, suggesting that budding researchers carefully contemplate each point. For example, when considering your passion, it’s not as simple as just rushing headlong into whatever takes your fancy. You can ask yourself these questions:  What are you passionate about? What drives your interest in discovery? What nursing practice issue is a concern to you and could be addressed? What personal and professional experiences can you draw on? 

Funding is another important consideration in any research career. Ploeg made the following suggestions: Regularly check websites of funders and sign up for notices of funding opportunities (CIHR, foundations). Track provincial, national strategic priorities (e.g., Ministry of Health). Re-shape your applications to funding priorities (e.g., COVID-19).

Dr. Ploeg said: “I am so excited to see the next generation of nurse researchers, such as those attending online today and receiving NRIG awards, take on vitally important research that will make critical contributions to advancing nursing practice.” A recording of her presentation will be available on the NRIG website.

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