Practioners Who Publish

Three local health service based research centres are helping nurses and midwives turn their work experiences into research projects with impact.

Three School of Nursing and Midwifery research centres based in three local health districts in Western Sydney are helping nurses and midwives to conduct research based on questions about clinical practice and their own experience.

“It’s about increasing the evidence, so we can use it to change the practice,” explains midwifery researcher, Associate Professor Virginia Stulz, who, along with Associate Professor and Centre Director Lauretta Luck, mentor participants at the Centre for Nursing and Midwifery Research (CNMR) at Nepean Hospital. 

One of the projects is focused on reducing emergency department wait times. Robyn Totenhofer, an emergency department nurse practitioner at Nepean Hospital, will collect data on whether nurse practitioners trained to assess skin and soft tissue injuries via bedside ultrasound can reduce the length of patient stay. 

“It’s very achievable,” Totenhofer says. The ultrasound training for nurses was already planned, she explains. “We have eight nurse practitioners in emergency, and we’re all doing an accredited ultrasound course. Then I’ll spend six months collecting data from the emergency department, and hopefully find an improvement.” 

Need to know

  • The School of Nursing and Midwifery has three research centres embedded in local health districts.
  • These centres help nursing practitioners turn their work experiences into research projects.
  • The results may help improve hospital practices.

After accredited training, the nurses will be able to quickly and definitively identify commonly presented skin and soft tissue infections. This will help zero in on common issues such as whether a skin complaint is cellulitis, a skin infection, or an abscess, an infection filled with pus. The treatment options for the outwardly similar problems are quite different; an abscess is often drained, while cellulitis is usually treated with antibiotics. 

Each year, Luck and Stulz, both joint appointees to Western Sydney University and the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, and the CNMR team, provide three months of mentorship to at least eight nurses and midwives. The practitioners are often financially supported by the hospitals, while the CNMR walk them through everything from literature reviews and methodology to ethics approval and publishing. By publishing her results, Totenhofer could be responsible for speeding up patient journeys at many other hospitals, says Stulz. 

Linking nurses and midwives to research is productive, agrees Jeni Stevens, a clinical midwifery consultant who worked with the CNMR on studies looking at induced lactation, breastfeeding education and skin-to-skin contact after caesarean births. “I think midwives should engage in research, because they have the opportunity to ask the women at the time about what can make a difference to them, and it gives us the power to implement what the women want,” she says. The research centres also deliver an important cultural message to the heart of busy hospitals, says Stulz. “It shows clinicians that research is important, because it can really change people’s lives.” 

Meet the Academic | Associate Professor Virginia Stulz

Virginia is currently working in a conjoint position between Nepean Hospital and Western Sydney University. She has been working as a registered nurse and midwife for the past 25 years. In her previous role as the Senior Midwifery Advisor for Dept of Health, NT Govt, she has been working on a variety of projects in the NT including integration of maternity services and leading the implementation of Privately Practising Midwives in the NT in alignment with law reform in 2014. She worked as the co-investigator on a national research project of evaluating organizational cultural competence in maternity care for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander women, commissioned by the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council, from 2015 - 2017. She developed the NT Health Clinical Guidelines for Termination of Pregnancy and Consumer Guidelines to align with current changes in legislation in the NT and led an advisory committee for consumers.

She completed her PhD in 2009 that focused on stress and burnout within the midwifery profession. Virginia has expertise in qualitative and quantitative research, specifically development of a survey and statistical analysis as part of her PhD.


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Future-Care is published for Western Sydney University by Nature Research Custom Media, part of Springer Nature.