We would like to thank McKenna and Keeney (McKenna & Keeney 2008) for their response and positive critical comments concerning our study of research priorities in nursing among Swedish nurses. In numerous articles, McKenna, Keeney and their colleagues have shown the advantage of using the Delphi technique when identifying research priorities in different healthcare settings within and outside nursing. Although current studies tend to focus more on specific areas in nursing, our study aimed to explore and establish clinical nursing research priorities in general within a geographically, economically integrated and well-defined healthcare organisation. Following early studies, using Delphi technique was also a deliberate choice because of lack of experience in using the method (Lindeman 1975, Bond & Bond 1987, MacMillan et al. 1989, McKenna 1994, Hamrin 1995).
In the paper, the inclusion criterion of the expert panel was described. By mentioning the total population of nurses in the actual area (n = 2665), our intention was to give the reader a hint of the potential subjects, not to invite all of them, only those with an interest in exploring future research priorities. The invitation to participate in the study was communicated by leading nurses in key positions as well as on web-sites of respectively healthcare organisations. The respondent nurses (n = 118) were representative from a demographic point of view. It is to be remembered that during the time of the study, there was no nurse with a PhD degree employed in clinical practice within the healthcare organisation in the Fyrbodal region. The nurses with a higher academic degree were employed at the University West.
As McKenna and Keeney (2008) imply, in priority setting with Delphi technique consideration should be given to use a level of consensus among expert panel members and ranking should only include those statements which have reached that level. We started the Delphi process with an open-ended question and received 380 items which, after analysis, resulted in a 13 pages questionnaire. The expert panel became involved and motivated, and 81% completed the three rounds. The high response rate might be explained by a thorough and systematic preparatory work, the great interest from the panel-members to explore patient-related nursing issues and their eager to develop evidence-based clinical practice informed by research. As Hasson (Hasson et al. 2000) and Keeney (Keeney et al. 2001) emphasise, that although consensus is reached, it does not mean that the correct answers have been found, but a high response rate will increase the validity of the results.
We agree with McKenna and Keeney (2008) on the importance of funders to invest in the development of nursing research capacity. We are also willing to share our findings to inform the strategic thinking for the Swedish nursing organisations as suggested by McKenna and Keeney (2008). As a matter of fact nine studies derived from the 15 highest prioritised areas have recently been initiated. The participating nurses are provided with an educational and supervision program with financial support from the Fyrbodal Research Institute, the Research and Development Department at Norra Älvsborg/Hospital and County Council of Western Sweden. Moreover, the process and the effect of participating in this research capacity building program will be longitudinally studied.