Nurses are natural collaborators. As a profession we work in teams and develop skills of communication and adaptability. Every day we meet people from different backgrounds and disciplines. We are good listeners and negotiators. These are the nursing strengths, which the WISECARE project harnessed in an initiative with implications for cancer nursing practice, and also, more widely, for how nursing and other types of research are undertaken in Europe.
Willingness to collaborate is born out of nurses' recognition that sharing good practice, experience and research is an imperative for achieving high quality patient care. Nurses are, first and foremost; interested in what will benefit the people for whom they are responsible. They want to base their practice on the best evidence available. The great appeal of this project is the involvement of clinically based nurses from the start. The nurses who provided the hands-on care were also responsible for collecting the data. The research was generated and owned by the same practitioners who then went on to implement the findings. This approach transcends the barriers, which continue to exist between research and practice. The level of patient involvement is also to be commended, with patients experiencing improvements to their own care derived from a research project in which they were participating.
This sense of intimacy and immediacy linking nurse, patient, research and outcomes was greatly assisted in this project by the use of new technology. By using a mini-electronic patient record to monitor a patient's symptoms, nurses could collect data by a patient's side, share ‘instant feedback’ to evaluate the impact of aspects of nursing care and access the experience of colleagues and patients involved in the project in other countries.
The use of new technology also leads to speedier and more convenient communication, which is of particular value for international research projects. As nurses are discovering across the world, the use of e-mail offers enormous potential for the creation of nursing networks. Those involved in the WISECARE project found the flexibility of e-mail provided a supportive link to allow problems to be shared and solutions found.
The potential of new technology and nurses' appetite for collaboration and evidence-based practice bode well for the future of nursing research in Europe. The approach adopted by WISECARE is eminently transferable to other fields and disciplines. Joining forces with colleagues in different countries makes sense financially; a consideration particularly pertinent for nursing research with its chronic underfunding. Collaboration is also efficient, with different partners bringing complementary expertise and resources to a project, creating synergy and avoiding duplication.
For nursing, pan-European projects are set to become increasingly important, clinically, professionally and politically. A project like WISECARE, which encourages European nurses to compare their practice with other clinical sites, could eventually leadto the creation of benchmarks, international guidelines and protocols. The European Oncology Nursing Society (EONS), the organisation which pioneered WISECARE, is also active on professional issues, working with the Standing Committee of Nurses of the European Union (PCN) to create a framework for specialist nurse education across Europe. The political dimension of collaborative working is most powerful when it addresses the challenge all nurses face in defining and conveying the value of nursing care. This issue takes on a greater significance in an expanding Europe where interpretations of what we mean by nursing are becoming more and more varied.
I congratulate all the partners involved in WISECARE on a project with tangible benefits for patients and which contributes to our shared desire to make the nursing voice heard in Europe, loud and clear. Collaboration is not a straightforward option; much hard work lies behind the successful completion of this project and the securing of the European Commission funding which made it possible in the first place. I believe WISECARE will inspire many more nurses, both as individuals and groups, to look for opportunities to work and network with colleagues across Europe.