Daphne Stannard Strengthens the Ties Between Research and Hospital Nursing

May 2011Diana Austin

Daphne Stannard moved to San Francisco in 1989 with her BSN degree in hand and four years’ clinical experience in a surgical intensive care unit (ICU) under her wing. Those credentials helped her secure a job at UCSF Medical Center as a staff nurse in the medical-surgical ICU.

Twenty-two years later, she’s still there, only now she boasts a PhD and a critical care clinical nurse specialist (CNS) certification while serving as associate chief nurse researcher and a perianesthesia CNS.

“Basically, I came to UCSF and never left,” laughs Stannard.

That’s a good thing for both the School and the hospital because Stannard’s story mirrors an important shift in nursing: the tightening connection between the ivory tower and the practice setting or, as Stannard puts it, “diminishing the dichotomy between academia and service.”

A Cross-Country, Cross-Disciplinary Career Path

It was at Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University School of Nursing that Stannard began acquiring the basic skills she needed in her chosen field, a process she continued at the University of Michigan Medical Center and in Los Angeles at the Cedars-Sinai and UCLA medical centers. Her experiences as a staff nurse in the surgical ICU and the postanesthesia care unit cemented her interest in critical care nursing. When she arrived at UCSF a few years later, she jumped at the opportunity to hone her expertise.

While continuing her work at the medical center, Stannard pursued a master’s degree in critical care nursing at UCSF. It was there she crossed paths with Patricia Benner, whose 1984 book From Novice to Expert: Excellence and Power in Clinical Nursing Practice was considered the seminal work on the stages of skill acquisition.

Eventually, Benner sponsored Stannard when she entered the School of Nursing’s doctoral program in 1991. Stannard also became one of two co-investigators in a Benner research project to develop curricula and teaching strategies that would help nurses and nurse-educators connect background science and technology with the clinical and ethical judgments that expert nurses make when caring for patients and families. The work yielded a book, an article and an educational CD-ROM that is still in use today.

During that time, Stannard also discovered what would ultimately become her area of expertise in clinical practice – perianesthesia nursing – while working as a per-diem nurse in UCSF Medical Center’s Post-Anesthesia Care Unit. The combination of research, teaching (she served as a teaching assistant at the School during this time) and clinical practice was a happy one for Stannard.

After completing her doctorate in 1997, Stannard spent a year as an assistant adjunct professor at the UCSF School of Nursing. Then she moved on to San Francisco State University’s School of Nursing, where she became an assistant professor and, ultimately, a tenured associate professor teaching both undergraduate and graduate nursing students.

But in 2007, she decided to return to full-time clinical practice at UCSF Medical Center. “I wanted to have more connection with the service sector,” explains Stannard.

As the perianesthesia CNS, Stannard works within the five domains of this advanced practice nursing role: expert clinical practice, education, consultation, research and leadership. Clinically, she covers all of the recovery areas within the perioperative division.

“One of my principal aims is to standardize practice variations across the division and to ensure excellence and safety for patients and their families,” she says. This year, she co-edited a book on perianesthesia nursing care that featured many clinical nurse specialist authors from UCSF Medical Center and from across the country.

Collaboration for More Effective Care

In 2010, Stannard assumed another role as associate chief nurse researcher. While maintaining her position as perianesthesia CNS, Stannard also serves now as a coach on the medical center’s Research and Innovation Council, is an ex officio member of the School of Nursing Research Committee and has been recently appointed as a nurse representative on the campuswide Committee on Human Research.

Her dual role neatly reflects a key purpose of the medical center: to foster evidence-based practice by linking research and clinical care. Currently, Stannard is involved in seven nursing research initiatives under way at the medical center, ranging from catheter-associated urinary tract infection surveillance methods to an evaluation of postoperative follow-up phone calls to postsurgical patients.

Stannard also personifies the increasing emphasis on collaborative efforts between the UCSF School of Nursing and UCSF Medical Center. This year, two collaborative nursing research grants were jointly awarded to research teams comprising School of Nursing faculty and medical center nurses.

“UCSF fosters innovation every day by linking education and research to really push patient and family care to the next level,” says Stannard. “It’s made me a better scientist and a better bedside nurse. And these kinds of partnerships have the potential to produce great synergy and, ultimately, a better health care environment with better outcomes.”