How do we simplify the process for health professionals starting out in rheumatology research? This question can be difficult to answer because the plethora of information on starting out in rheumatology research is often overwhelming, and the multiplicity of Web sites with research materials can be confusing.
To simplify and better manage this information, the ARHP Research Committee recently categorized and centralized the array of information relating to rheumatology research. The centralized information is available at www.rheumatology.org/arhp. Over the past two years, Nadine James, RN, MSN, PhD, chair of the ARHP Research Committee, has guided her committee of nine volunteers in developing a menu of online resources for health professionals who are involved in research. These research tools are designed to assist health professionals at all stages of their research careers.
Doctoral and Postdoctoral Resources
Doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers represent the future of rheumatology-related research, yet they are increasingly faced with many challenges in establishing careers as experienced investigators. The “Doctoral/Post-Doctoral Students and Health Professional Researchers” section of the ARHP research Web site aims to provide researchers who are at an early stage in their careers with tools to overcome potential obstacles, including:
- Help finding funding opportunities;
- Tools to aid in the improvement of grant-writing skills;
- Tips on effectively presenting research findings;
- Advice on negotiating career paths;
- Links to articles on developing podium presentation skills; and
- Tips for creating an interesting and effective poster.
Additional links on this portion of the site guide the beginning researcher through the grant-writing process and list various grant resources for health professional research on rheumatic diseases.
The evidence-based practice resources section of the ARHP research Web site contains information for both clinicians and established researchers in rheumatology. The clinician-targeted section focuses on resources that busy clinicians can use to find the latest scientific information to assist in clinical decision making, and the researcher’s section includes resources describing study designs used to provide evidence for practice as well as descriptions for synthesizing and evaluating the quality of scientific information. A table summarizing the various study designs (e.g., meta-analysis, cross-sectional) provides a brief description and examples of the types of questions each design addresses (e.g., prevalence, preventive factors, treatment). This section also provides links to various relevant databases such as the Cochrane and National Institutes of Health databases. Future plans for this section include the addition of information for patients regarding evidence-based practice.
The Outcomes Measure Instruments section of the Web site aims to assist researchers and clinicians in learning about valid and reliable patient-oriented outcome instruments that are useful in the study and treatment of arthritis. Because various conceptual and operational definitions have been used in studies to document the effects of healthcare interventions on patient outcomes in arthritis, this section explains key measurement issues and defines psychometric information that is related to these instruments. The first instruments to be featured on the Web site are those highlighted in the October 2003 special edition of Arthritis Care & Research, entitled, “Patient Outcomes in Rheumatology: A Review of Measures.” The Research Committee is working to add more valid and reliable instruments to the Web site in 2009.