Journal of Nursing Education

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BRIEFS 

Grantsmanship as a Core Component of Nursing Doctoral Education

Julie Cowan Novak, RN, MA, CPNP, DNSc

Abstract

During the course of the nursing doctoral program at the University of San Diego, the author developed an awareness of the expertise necessary for grantsmanship and fund-raising. This awareness was not afforded through a grantsmanship course specifically, but rather was the result of an interest in the topic that was stimulated through core and elective research courses, the administrative residency, and independent study components of the doctoral program.

The administrative residency is flexible in that it is designed by the individual student. The author submitted a residency proposal that was reviewed and approved by the faculty. The residency took place with a research team at the University of Washington School of Nursing just prior to the dissertation phase of the doctoral program. The author's independent study, an elective, resulted in the development of a program grant entitled "A Model Program for Continuing Education of Pediatrie Nurses," which was submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services. The prerequisite core courses in quantitative and qualitative methodologies, and a multivariant statistics course enabled the student to fully participate in both the residency and independent study grantsmanship processes.

Nationally, the 1981 American Association of Colleges of Nursing position paper on research proposes that strong graduate programs must be based on faculty scholarship, research mentorship, and clinical excellence, and that fulfillment of research goals requires successful attainment of material resources for programs of research (AACN, 1981). Abdellah (1987) contends that fund-raising skills, including the ability to write persuasive grant proposals, will be needed to obtain financial support for research and research training programs from sources other than the federal government. The budget that was proposed for fiscal year 1987 added only 3.8% to the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, which was the lowest increase in a decade (Solomon, 1986). Of the 210 nursing programs that responded to a survey, only 21% said that they received any funding from federal sources. Of the responding institutions, 43% depended to some degree on private sources to finance their nursing programs (Gunne, 1986). In response to this need. McBride (1986) identified the development of grantwriting skills as a major objective of the 1989 Sigma Thêta Tau Convention.

This brief proposes that grantsmanship should not be studied by doctoral students merely based on their individual interests, but instead should be core curricula in nursing doctoral education. With the establishment of the National Center for Nursing Research as the newest component of the existing National Institutes of Health, nursing has a specific granting agency that will nurture and sustain research and research training related to nursing practice phenomena (Felton, 1986). Doctoral students must be prepared comprehensively for nurse executive and faculty roles that view grantsmanship and research as top priorities.

Philosophical Implications

If nursing is to develop as a science and a discipline, graduates of nursing doctoral programs must be prepared to obtain funding for necessary research. Nursing science doctoral programs must therefore adopt the philosophy that the teaching of grantsmanship should be integrated conceptually throughout the curricula. With the cuts in federal support over the past decade, doctoral students who are seeking nurse executive and nursing faculty positions must be prepared to enter the grantsmanship process on equal ground with the other academic disciplines. In reality, grantsmanship is an expectation of most junior faculty during their probationary period. However, this expertise is often gained by trial and error, if at all.

Fortunate junior faculty have senior faculty mentors who encourage and facilitate their research and grant writing efforts. In the research context, the mentor is a researcher and scholar who understands the basic goals…

During the course of the nursing doctoral program at the University of San Diego, the author developed an awareness of the expertise necessary for grantsmanship and fund-raising. This awareness was not afforded through a grantsmanship course specifically, but rather was the result of an interest in the topic that was stimulated through core and elective research courses, the administrative residency, and independent study components of the doctoral program.

The administrative residency is flexible in that it is designed by the individual student. The author submitted a residency proposal that was reviewed and approved by the faculty. The residency took place with a research team at the University of Washington School of Nursing just prior to the dissertation phase of the doctoral program. The author's independent study, an elective, resulted in the development of a program grant entitled "A Model Program for Continuing Education of Pediatrie Nurses," which was submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services. The prerequisite core courses in quantitative and qualitative methodologies, and a multivariant statistics course enabled the student to fully participate in both the residency and independent study grantsmanship processes.

Nationally, the 1981 American Association of Colleges of Nursing position paper on research proposes that strong graduate programs must be based on faculty scholarship, research mentorship, and clinical excellence, and that fulfillment of research goals requires successful attainment of material resources for programs of research (AACN, 1981). Abdellah (1987) contends that fund-raising skills, including the ability to write persuasive grant proposals, will be needed to obtain financial support for research and research training programs from sources other than the federal government. The budget that was proposed for fiscal year 1987 added only 3.8% to the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, which was the lowest increase in a decade (Solomon, 1986). Of the 210 nursing programs that responded to a survey, only 21% said that they received any funding from federal sources. Of the responding institutions, 43% depended to some degree on private sources to finance their nursing programs (Gunne, 1986). In response to this need. McBride (1986) identified the development of grantwriting skills as a major objective of the 1989 Sigma Thêta Tau Convention.

This brief proposes that grantsmanship should not be studied by doctoral students merely based on their individual interests, but instead should be core curricula in nursing doctoral education. With the establishment of the National Center for Nursing Research as the newest component of the existing National Institutes of Health, nursing has a specific granting agency that will nurture and sustain research and research training related to nursing practice phenomena (Felton, 1986). Doctoral students must be prepared comprehensively for nurse executive and faculty roles that view grantsmanship and research as top priorities.

Philosophical Implications

If nursing is to develop as a science and a discipline, graduates of nursing doctoral programs must be prepared to obtain funding for necessary research. Nursing science doctoral programs must therefore adopt the philosophy that the teaching of grantsmanship should be integrated conceptually throughout the curricula. With the cuts in federal support over the past decade, doctoral students who are seeking nurse executive and nursing faculty positions must be prepared to enter the grantsmanship process on equal ground with the other academic disciplines. In reality, grantsmanship is an expectation of most junior faculty during their probationary period. However, this expertise is often gained by trial and error, if at all.

Fortunate junior faculty have senior faculty mentors who encourage and facilitate their research and grant writing efforts. In the research context, the mentor is a researcher and scholar who understands the basic goals of academic life and is willing to help and support other faculty as they pursue scholarship through the development of grant proposals ( Kim & Felton, 1986). An alternative method for developing grantsmanship skills is through university "how to" workshops on grant writing. If the university environment does not help to develop the grant writing abilities of its new faculty; if senior faculty are not willing or able to foster the development of junior faculty; if there are no research teams that encourage the participation of the junior faculty; then there may be limited development of grantsmanship skills by new faculty members. It is indefensible that grantsmanship, which is so important for the growth and development of today's faculty members and their universities, is left to chance and is not a core component of all doctoral programs.

Curricular Placement

A strong research component is a curricular foundation of nursing doctoral education. Quantitative, qualitative, and historical research methodologies are presented in core and elective courses. The concept of grantsmanship should be introduced in each of these core courses. The National Research Service Award might be presented in an early research course to introduce the opportunity for student peer review at the national level and also to obtain preproposal or proposal funding. Teaching this process would allow students to provide formalized feedback or criticism in a "safe" environment before submitting the proposal for review on a national level. Subsequently, a separate grantsmanship course with further emphasis on the process should be offered. The nursing faculty member with the most grant writing experience would be the logical faculty of record to teach such a course. If current nursing faculty do not have this expertise, then someone from the broader university community might be recruited as a consultant.

The grantsmanship course would logically follow the research courses within the doctoral program. Due to its importance, it would be added to the core curriculum prior to the dissertation phase. If six units were available, it could be divided into didactic (three-unit) and experiential (three-unit residency) components. A three-unit course would be more realistic in many institutions, with a two-unit didactic component and a one-unit experiential component. This course could replace a three-unit elective option, thus maintaining the same number of units required for graduation. The advantage of including both components would be the opportunity for the student not only to learn the process but also to see it enacted. Due to the lack of funded research teams within nursing programs relative to other health science disciplines, alternative arrangements might be made with multidisciplinary teams within or outside the university (Brooton, 1986 1.

The major disadvantage of providing an experiential component is that if it is not selected carefully, the student might be exposed to highly competitive, non-nurturant team members or to unsophisticated methodologists who take many short cuts, teaching the student poor habits. Optimally, the student would experience a research team where collaboration is viewed as a cooperative endeavor among professionals who consider each other as peers and who share values of democratic governance. This would provide a framework for the socialization of doctoral students into active and productive research roles (Williams, 1987).

In addition to a specific grantsmanship course, the concept of grantsmanship should be introduced across the curriculum. In this way, a sensitivity can be developed for the unique aspects of grantsmanship as they apply to the different curricula strands. Aspects of grantsmanship that would apply to other non-research courses such as ethics (eg, vulnerable research populations) and health policy (eg, community assessment) should also be integrated. Research and design papers with possible funding agencies identified by the student, and contract/ grant applications written according to public or private agency guidelines might be requirements for many of these courses.

The initial efforts to develop the grantsmanship course and identify existing courses where grantsmanship could be introduced would be conducted by the nursing school's curriculum committee. Course proposals and course change proposals would then be presented to the nursing faculty for its approval. Given that this process implies an overall philosophical support of the expansion of grantsmanship sensitivity and expertise across the curriculum, there is potential for lengthy faculty debate before consensus is achieved. After school recommendations are formulated, they would be presented to the appropriate college or university curriculum committee and the faculty senate for approval. During this process, questions of course duplication with other grantsmanship/grant development courses within the university would be raised. The nursing school would develop its proposal with these data in mind to facilitate the review process and ensure the adoption of the course. A multidisciplinary grantsmanship course might be an intellectually healthy alternative and would be cross listed so that all departments involved in teaching the course would be credited.

Implications for Faculty

The implication of this proposal for faculty teaching at the doctoral level includes a necessary commitment to the need for the course and a willingness of the faculty of record to assume the responsibility of coordinating the didactic component. If no one on the nursing faculty has had extensive grant writing experience, outside nursing and non-nursing experts should be utilized as consultants. New faculty should be recruited who have an established record of grant submission or who have identified grant writing as a priority in their own professional growth and development.

If there is faculty resistance to the inclusion of grantsmanship in the curriculum, then the source of the resistance must be identified. If the concern of faculty members is the addition of another commitment to their already overloaded schedules, it should be emphasized that a grantsmanship course might actually reduce faculty time spent in individual advisement for which there is no full time equivalent student credit generated. It should also be recognized that it is difficult to continue to carry a heavy undergraduate teaching load if a faculty member chooses to play a major role in grantsmanship.

If lack of knowledge in the area of grantsmanship is identified as a barrier, a faculty development program might be initiated by the faculty of record. The program would not only allow the faculty to gain skills in the area, but would also enable them to advise students in a manner consistent with subsequent doctoral course content. A comprehensive overview of programmatic research thrusts, sources of funding for nursing research, and a comparison and contrast of research objectives of federal agencies, foundations, non-profit associations, and corporations should be included. This program would emphasize the proposal process. Pender, Sechrist, Frank-Stromborg, and Walker (1987) described the steps in preparation of a collaborative research program grant proposal as identification of a research team, commitment to collaboration, plans for proposal preparation, writing the proposal, and synthesis and evaluation of the final product.

The faculty development program would also identify a critical factor in successful grantsmanship, such as choosing the appropriate source from which to apply for grant funds. There are more than 25,000 foundations and thousands of federal, state, and local government programs that provide grants (Lefferts, 1984). In addition, a large number of corporations provide grants for research training and public service programs (Wood, 1986).

The level of competition should also be emphasized. At least a million proposals are submitted each year for funding in the human services field. Of these, approximately one in ten submitted proposals is funded (Smith, 1985).

The faculty development program should also stress that research proposals are usually subject to more intensive technical review than program grant proposals. This is especially true of proposals submitted to the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the US Department of Health and Human Services, which are three of the major federal agencies that support considerable research (Lauffer, 1984).

The Sigma Thêta Tau research proposal tape analyzes the scientific review process through a mock study section review (Sigma Thêta Tau, 1985). For the mock review, faculty members have the opportunity to write a convincing statement about their research problem, carefully explain the methodolgy, and describe the potential importance of their study. Barnard (1985) states that most reviewers know less about the subject matter of the proposed study than do the researchers who are seeking funds; thus, faculty are encouraged to explain their projects in a manner similar to that which they would use to explain it to a friend or relative.

When the important commitment to research and grant writing has been made by the faculty, the development of an Office of Nursing Research would be an important consideration. This action identifies research as a top priority within the school, provides a site for coordination of faculty and student research activities, and provides a resource for grantsmanship opportunities. Ideally, the Director of Research position would evolve into an Associate Dean for Research post in many institutions. The faculty members supporting this decision would stress that although the development of the entire research program would require an allocation of major funds, the pay back in terms of funding and professional growth would be significant.

Implications for Students

Major factors that might hinder full participation of students in grantsmanship include the lack of opportunities for research team exposure and the unwillingness of research teams to accept outside participants. This is due to a fear that research ideas and findings might be discussed prematurely, thus creating a lack of openness among team members. The opportunity for research team exposure might be increased by investigating options outside the school of nursing, within the university, in the community, and in nearby institutions based on the research interests of the students. A formal network of nursing doctoral programs might be developed in which each school would identify their unique programs of research. Principle investigators or project directors willing to provide a residency experience for students would meet with the faculty and student to identify how the team is organized and how information is transmitted.

A lack of self-directed behavior among the students is another hindrance to full student participation in the grantsmanship. To overcome this, students should be encouraged to identify their research questions early in the course of their doctoral studies and to begin to identify possible experiential grantsmanship resources within the university, community, and in other institutions. To encourage students to investigate residency experiences in other institutions, the value of cross involvement should be clearly identified. The exposure to a research team either within the university or off campus would offer doctoral students the opportunity to experience the nature of the intellectual enterprise and to gain a critical grasp on the way it has been elaborated, the assumptions on which it rests, and the rules by which it proceeds. It should also be emphasized that grantsmanship skills will better enable students to obtain predoctoral funding for dissertation support and will prepare them for future roles as faculty members and nurse executives.

In smaller or newly established doctoral programs with limited resources in the community, alternative methods of learning the didactic component of grantsmanship might be offered through university foundation courses or through intensive weekend seminars with visiting grant writers. Contracts and grants offices of larger universities also may offer similar courses. Short-term off-campus residency experiences with established programs of research might be offered until the school of nursing is able to develop its own on-site program. This would offer students a context in which to extend their understanding, further their creative abilities, and enhance their capability to pursue their goals as scholars.

Conclusion

If nursing is to continue to develop as a profession and a science, doctoral students, whether DNS or PhD, must have a strong foundation in research methodologies. With the cuts in federal support over the past decade, graduates who are accepting nurse executive and nursing faculty positions musí be prepared to enter the grantsmanship process on equal ground with the other academic disciplines. The obvious way for nursing to increase quality research productivity and to increase noninstitutional funding is to tie the two together synergistically and conceptually for doctoral students. This process should be taught as a core component of doctoral education not only in a didactic course but also, optimally, through exposure to a nursing research team where collaboration and mentoring are fostered. The development of this core curricular component could result in increased opportunities for cross fertilization of research ideas across doctoral programs and the establishment of a formal research network with each school identifying its unique programs of research. In this way, the grantsmanship curricular component would be fostering optimal student preparation and faculty professional growth while expanding the reputation of the faculty and the nursing program. This highly desirable and efficient synergism between the activities for teaching and professional growth will better prepare doctoral students for faculty and nurse executive positions.

References

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  • Lauffer, A. (1984). Grantsmanship and funding. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
  • Lefferts, R. (1984). Getting a grant in the 1980s. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • McBride, A. (1986). The presidents charge. Sigma Thêta Tau International 29th Biennial Convention. San Francisco, November 13.
  • National Center for Nursing Research. National Institutes of Health: National research service award. Bethesda, Maryland 20894.
  • Pender, N., Sechrist, K., Frank-Stromborg, M., & Walker, S. (1987). Collaboration in developing a research program grant. Image, 19, 75-77.
  • Sigma Thêta Tau. (19851. Grantwñting. Indianapolis, Sigma Thêta Tau.
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  • Wood, J. (1986 ). Grantsmanship: Winning foundation funding. Nurs Econ, 4, 80-82.

10.3928/0148-4834-19890901-12

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