Nurse researcher enters Hall of Fame

Alfred Deakin Professor Alison Hutchinson from the Institute’s Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research was last night formally inducted into the Sigma International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame.

Written by Judy Baulch

Professor Hutchinson is among 20 world-renowned honourees inducted during the 32nd International Nursing Research Congress, held virtually this week.

This year’s inductees join the 218 nurse researchers inducted since the Hall of Fame was established by the Sigma Theta Tau International Honour Society of Nursing (Sigma) in 2009 to recognise nurse researchers who have achieved significant and sustained national or international recognition and whose research has improved the profession of nursing and the people it serves.

Prof. Hutchinson is a Professor of Nursing in Deakin University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, and Chair in Nursing at Monash Health. She leads a team of 40 scholars at Deakin’s Institute for Health Transformation’s Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research (QPS), undertaking research into aspects of patient safety, patient experience and workforce development. She is also Associate Editor for the journals ‘Implementation Science’ and ‘Implementation Science Communications’.

Prof. Hutchinson is one of only a few Australian nurses to have successfully completed a formal postdoctoral fellowship program overseas, having trained as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta, Canada. She received a national fellowship in knowledge translation award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and a provincial fellowship award from Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (now Alberta Innovates). and in

In 2019, in recognition of her sustained contribution to nursing research, she was awarded the title of Alfred Deakin Professor, the highest honour Deakin can bestow on academic staff members.

The Director of Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation, Professor Anna Peeters, said the International Nurse Research Hall of Fame honour was a significant acknowledgement of Prof. Hutchinson’s body of work.

“Alison has made an extraordinary contribution to nursing research locally and internationally, especially for her implementation science/knowledge translation research. Everyone at the Institute congratulates her on this well-deserved honour.”

For Prof. Hutchinson, nursing has been a lifelong fascination. Initially she followed her mother in pursuing a nursing career and trained at Royal Melbourne Hospital. Once university nursing courses became more established, she completed a Bachelor of Science in Applied Nursing, then a Midwifery certificate, a Masters in Bioethics and a PhD in how clinicians use evidence to inform clinical pathways in paediatrics. She says that was the beginning of her research speciality in implementation science, which is about the translation of evidence into practice and policy.

“When I started nursing, some of the practices we followed really had no evidence behind them,” she says. “We’ve become a much more research-based profession since then.”

A recent example of the impact of Prof. Hutchinson’s knowledge translation work is a systematic review she led (published in 2019) to investigate the effectiveness of organisational knowledge translation interventions to influence health professionals’ practice in relation to caesarean sections. The findings of the review informed strategies developed to reduce caesarean section rates in low- and middle-income countries.

The publication gained considerable media attention in Australia, but also drew interest from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, resulting in an invitation to present to international leaders in New York in 2019 on how to address an impending caesarean section crisis.

Prof. Hutchinson’s current focus is investigating how to counteract ‘compassion fatigue,’ identified as a real phenomenon among nurses and other primary caregivers.

“With my colleagues, I’m working on a study of nurses’ interactions with and compassion towards patients, trying to capture nurses’ perspective of their compassion and also patients’ to see how they marry up,” she says.

“We’re familiar with the concept of burnout, but there is also compassion fatigue, which seems to be closely linked, where people become fatigued in their ability to be compassionate. We hope to develop interventions to support nurses in being self-aware of when they’re reaching that point and what they can do to reignite that compassion.”

Another focus is on a long-term project with Canadian researchers to understand the influence of contextual factors on health professionals’ use of research in their practice. 

“We’ve just finalised the development of a framework to represent those factors, including attributes such as leadership, culture, and processes of governance,” Prof. Hutchinson says.

“We hope to establish an open access repository of tools to help health professionals assess their own setting or context and identify the barriers and facilitators to enabling the translation of evidence into practice.”

Prof. Hutchinson has also provided direction for the development of an open online access education program concerning care of the older person.

“Our research following implementation found that residents in aged care facilities reported strengthened partnership approaches to care, and family members described partnering with staff, increased confidence in collaborating with staff, and being included in care decisions,” she says.

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