Multidisciplinary research advances with help of PeRQ Award

VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund announces 2014 awards

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The hectic buzz of a busy clinic can be overwhelming and challenging. Each day, doctors and nurses are confronted with multiple sources of stress from both work and interpersonal demands, including unfairness and incivility from co-workers, patients and patients’ families.

Little is known about how these experiences combine across several days to influence the mental and emotional well-being of doctors and nurses, and even more, how these experiences ultimately affect patients’ care experience.

That’s what Virginia Commonwealth University researchers Laura McClelland, Ph.D., assistant professor of health administration in the VCU School of Allied Health Professions, and Allison S. Gabriel, Ph.D., assistant professor of management in the VCU School of Business, are hoping to find out.

Through the support of a 2014 award from the VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund, or PeRQ Fund, the team will attempt to better understand the factors that impact the well-being of doctors and nurses on a daily basis in ambulatory settings, and to help create a more positive environment for patient care.

The PeRQ fund, formerly the Presidential Research Incentive Program, recently announced its sixth round of internal funding awards, totaling more than $867,000 to support faculty engaged in new, emerging or continuing research.

For 2014, 18 awards involving 23 faculty members received funding, supporting projects across the institution from the schools of Medicine, Allied Health, Arts, Education, Engineering, Social Work, Business, Pharmacy and the College of Humanities and Sciences.

The entire list of awards can be found at VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund.

“We are taking our place among the nation’s premier urban public research universities because my faculty colleagues have committed to meaningful and impactful research that is both translational and multidisciplinary,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “PeRQ Funds are an important initiative that provides seed funding in a competitive environment and helps our internationally renowned faculty continue to advance the human experience through game-changing research and to accelerate VCU’s rapid progress nationally.”

Common research, different schools
Since 2010, the PeRQ program has brought together investigators interested in common research paths from across schools and within departments to share expertise and knowledge.

McClelland and Gabriel’s work is just one example of interdisciplinary research at VCU – something that is becoming more and more sought out in hopes of answering the toughest research questions. At times, the more diverse experts are from each other, the more productive they are.

The beauty of bringing researchers together from different disciplines is that each offers something unique at the research table. McClelland is an expert in health care organizational behavior and patient experience, while Gabriel has a background on topics related to emotions, job demands and employee well-being. The project development was further strengthened with a partnership with Jalana McCasland, vice president of VCU Health System Ambulatory Operations, who provided valuable input from a VCUHS perspective.

The pair, who met last summer, also represent part of a growing relationship between the VCU School of Business and the VCU School of Allied Health Professions. The schools’ common goal has been to foster interdisciplinary relationships both in research and in the classroom.

“We hope that our research will shed greater light on how ambulatory clinics can create workplace conditions to better support clinical providers. By doing so, we believe that doctors and nurses will be better able to provide high quality care and improve the patient experience,” McClelland said.

“We know the latter is particularly important because when patients have a positive care experience, they tend to have healthier outcomes,” she said.

The team will use the award to conduct a two-phase study. In the first phase, they will administer a large-scale survey across all VCU Health System non-pediatric ambulatory practices to identify variation in practice dynamics and pockets of employee well-being and ill-being.

“We will use these findings to pinpoint specific clinics for an in-depth study that uses electronic tablets each day for nurses, physicians and patients to record their experiences,” Gabriel said. “This will let us capture things that happen on a daily basis that we might miss with a one-time survey.

The award will help fund purchasing the tablets being used in the study and  compensating nurses and doctors for their participation.

This year, the Presidential Research Quest Fund received 47 applications from across VCU. Of the applications, 18 were recommended for funding to the PeRQ Fund Review Committee.

“What makes programs like the PeRQ so important is the fact that it not only supports faculty research, but it also highlights the exciting projects going on across the entire university,” Gabriel said.

“Without such programs, it would be harder to stay up-to-date on emerging research going on within the different departments and schools. We think that the PeRQ truly brings the VCU Quest for Distinction to life – we want to continue to advance as an urban research university, and this program allows us to do so,” she said.

The university supported this round of PeRQ research with nearly $520,000 of funding, and the units provided matching funds totaling more than $346,000. PeRQ dollars provided 60 percent of the award and the faculty member’s departments and schools provided 40 percent. The funding period is 18 months beginning July 1.

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