A conversation with an L&D nurse transitioning into research
Updated: Jun 18, 2021
We are starting a new blog series featuring each of our team members and their experiences before and during their time with the Coleman Research Group.
This month, we sat down with Erin Gingher, RN, MS, MHS, to learn more about her time as a bedside nurse, and hear her insights on her transition into research. Erin began working as a research nurse with the Coleman Research Group in November of 2020.
SS: Tell me a little about your background and education.
EG: I did my undergrad at Tufts and studied community health, which is where my interest in healthcare first started. Afterwards, I took a year to volunteer at a community hospital in my hometown in New Jersey. I started applying to public health graduate programs and ended up at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in their Health Finance & Management Program. After getting my MHS, I stayed at Hopkins and worked for JHM Strategic Planning and Market Research. This job was a good introduction into the vast healthcare arena, but I felt like I had drifted away from helping people, which was my original aim.
And then, one of my colleagues asked if I’d ever considered nursing, and it was like a light bulb had flipped on in my brain.
SS: When you were volunteering at the hospital for that year after undergrad, and you kind of got an inkling that you might be interested in healthcare, you didn’t think about nursing back then?
EG: No, I wasn’t considering being a nurse or physician back then. So, when I made the decision to go to nursing school, I had to go back to school and take multiple prerequisite classes that I never completed at Tufts. After the prerequisites, I obtained a Masters of Science from the University of Maryland’s Clinical Nurse Leader Program, which offered a graduate level degree for new nurses. I then worked in a Cardiac Progressive Care Unit for three years. After I had my daughter, I realized that I really wanted to work in Labor & Delivery.
SS: What did you enjoy most about working in Labor & Delivery?
EG: As a L&D nurse, you are very much involved in your patient’s care and an extremely special moment in their lives.
My favorite part of nursing is the bond that you can create with your patients and L&D offers such a unique opportunity to do just that.
SS: So, what drew you to apply for this position with the Coleman group?
EG: I started looking into research nursing because I wanted a change of pace from bedside nursing. I take my patient care very seriously and get invested very quickly, which can definitely be a good thing, but was also taking a toll on me.
When I met Dr. Coleman, she was one of the first people to look at my two master’s degrees and all my previous experiences and say that my combination of skills could really be useful in this setting.
SS: You kind of have this theme of knowing you want to be in medicine, but not solely for patient care - you want to be involved in public health and have a higher-level impact. Was that feeling, that might have even started way back during your undergrad, part of the reason that drove you to apply for a more research-oriented position?
EG: I felt like clinical research would combine everything: the desire to help others, my previous degrees and prior work experiences, all while retaining some aspect of patient care. Plus, I love writing and learning, and this position gives me the opportunity to do those things.
SS: Has this job influenced at all how you look back on bedside nursing?
EG: I have so much respect for nurses. Nurses work so hard and can make such a huge impact on their patients’ lives.
And on the flip side of that question, I think my time as a bedside nurse is certainly coming in handy now as a research nurse. I’ve been able to provide insight on a couple of our study protocols from a nurse’s perspective, patient perspective, and to improve workflow.
SS: What are you most looking forward to as a research nurse?
EG: I’m excited to write papers, be published, and see our work make an impact.
And I’m really happy to be surrounded by people who are so excited about learning and impacting patients for the better. It’s such a good environment.
SS: How do you feel nurses can have a bigger hand in public health?
EG: I think nurses are really valuable because they spend so many hours with patients, and so they see things that other healthcare workers may not. Harnessing those observations could be useful to improve quality of care. Additionally, I think that sometimes patients feel more comfortable talking to nurses and asking them questions, and that could potentially be useful for patient counseling and public health information.
SS: Absolutely. I'm looking forward to seeing how that ends up playing out with your HIV PrEP among women project. Thanks, Erin!