Research and practice development have become growth industries in nursing, but funding opportunities for such initiatives are scarce and increasingly competitive. Yet, nurses still attempt to secure funding in a rather pedestrian way and frequently bemoan the lack of success that usually ensues. Typically, they start by applying for internal funding from their own hospital – with limited or no success – and then for external funding from a government health agency or research council – invariably resulting in disappointment. They rarely consider or seek other potential sources, such as philanthropists, charities or industry, even though a number of these, including health care product manufacturers, have funded such initiatives, albeit on a limited scale.
In an era of health care where the mantra is cost effectiveness or value for money, but really means cost containment, the difficulties are real but not insurmountable. An entrepreneurial spirit is often what is required but, unfortunately, this is perceived as being rather distasteful or unprofessional by many nurses who tend to be rather conservative and lacking in imagination, confidence or political savvy.
The paper by Darbyshire et al. (2005) is, therefore, a welcome contribution to the literature because it describes the rarely considered notion of entrepreneurialism in action in nursing. It shows how clinicians and researchers collaborated to plan, fund and create an innovative three-year nursing research fellowship. This was made possible through developing a carefully considered proposal and sound business plan. A key to its success was the collaborative partnership between clinicians and researchers, but also important were the ingredients of creativity, commitment, passion, determination and perseverance. Of course, it remains to be seen whether such an initiative is sustainable, but if it is embedded into the organization and its culture and can demonstrate its value and appeal, it will be hard for it not to be.
The paper is an example of how nurses need to be more creative, politically astute and tenacious in the research enterprise. They need to lobby policy-makers and managers, engage more with other key players, and seek to actively influence the research agenda (Thompson 2003a). Cohesion and collaboration amongst nurses working to a common agreed goal, even though they may individually have diverse interests, talents and ambitions, are crucial (Thompson 2003b). It is about time that nurses started thinking bigger and in new ways about research.