Do you have data to support that opinion….

I admit I have become a bit of a cynic over the past couple years.  Honestly, the more information I have access to, the less I enjoy listening to people explain why everything should be done their way when they don’t provide me with solid evidence. Not that I want to be rude, but I have very limited time –we have very limited time — to make a difference in people’s lives.  I choose not to spend mine on projects that cannot be supported with evidence.

And by evidence I don’t mean something I read in a book somewhere.  I want facts, repeated, high quality research facts. I want to have access to these facts and present them in a way that makes it easy for policy makers to create strong policies that improve health. Yes, I lean toward the importance of good legislation. You probably know that about me.

So last weekend at a special two day crash course in planning interventions and field trials the teacher got my attention within the first five minutes.

“Nothing moves policy faster than a well designed randomized controlled trial.”

Nothing? Really? He went on to give various examples which are only case studies and subject to recall bias (meaning he won’t think of the research that didn’t end in swift policy change). But he did get me thinking about the importance of high quality research for the world of birth.

Ph.D.?  Not another five years…

Last month I met with the other Fellows at my nursing school to discuss general nursing scholarship issues.  When I briefly explained my policy heavy thesis the faculty adviser asked, “When are you starting the Ph.D. program?”

Ph.D.? Five more years in school….five more years in debt…five more years with my family of four in a two bedroom apartment living next door to undergrads?

Well, maybe getting a Ph.D. doesn’t have to mean all that.

I thought I had decided if I needed more schooling it would be a DNP – Doctor of Nursing Practice – because my interests lie in implementation research (how can we translate what we know is true into clinical practice?). “Ahh,” she answered, “With a Ph.D. you will learn how to conduct all types of research, you can run an implementation project and do other trials.”

And, as we’ve heard, good quality randomized controlled trials make it easy for legislators to enact good policy.

I’ve decided not to make any decisions yet.  I will work on my thesis, finish this semester, graduate and get certified.  But now the future beyond certification is a bit fuzzy.


Jennifer Vanderlaan (Author)