Kelsey Richardson ’15 (NURS) earned her bachelor’s degree this spring and shares her “accidental” journey into research in this essay.
I had never thought upon entering nursing school that research was even a remote possibility for me. When my advisor suggested joining the Honors program my sophomore year, I was interested but a little hesitant. I thought Honors meant taking extremely hard classes and losing all my free time. Instead, in the nursing program, Honors meant finding an advisor and completing a research project with their guidance and expertise. Then, finally, if you found new results, you would be able to submit your findings to be published. This sounded interesting to me and thankfully I took my advisor’s advice and started an amazing journey down the research path for the past three years. I learned that not only is research ever changing, but even students can make discoveries that can improve the practice and lives of others.
My trip down the research road started with finding an advisor. I was lucky enough to meet Dr. Xiaomei Cong, who is involved with so many amazing projects it was hard to pick just one to make my own. We decided that I would use a survey that had already been created and tested to further investigate neonatal nurses’ perceptions of the phenomenon known as Skin-to-Skin Contact or Kangaroo Care. First, I completed my preliminary literature review, searching multiple databases to see what was already published about Kangaroo Care. Not only did I learn about this intervention, but I also learned how to search the databases, save my results and pick out was and was not important. These skills helped me immensely in the next few years as a student when we needed to do research on a multitude of topics for various classes.
I then started the meticulous process of getting IRB approval before I could actually send out my survey. After this, I was able to send my survey out and we received more responses than I could have ever dreamed. This did prove to be slightly overwhelming when it became time to analyze all the results, however! Around this time, in November of my Junior year, I was lucky enough to receive the SHARE award from the Office of Undergraduate Research. Both my advisor and I received a stipend for our work, which greatly helped with my project. Not only did this make me feel as though my research was really worthwhile, but it was the best feeling to believe that others felt that my research was important enough to be recognized.
Now that we had funding and survey responses, it was time to analyze the data and begin the most important part of my Honors thesis: the discussion. Simultaneously while writing my thesis, I also created a poster which briefly summarized everything I had done since beginning my research with Dr. Cong. It was presented at the Frontiers in Undergraduate Research poster exhibition and again the following week at the ATHENA nursing research conference at the UConn School of Nursing.
As the semester winds down, I am putting the final touches on my Honors Thesis and wrapping up loose ends. Even after my thesis is submitted, further descriptive analysis will be run on my results and I will continue to assist my advisor in writing up our research, which will be submitted to be published in the near future. Looking back, I cannot believe how far I had come from the admitted freshman who declined the Honors program initially to the poster-presenting senior who is about to submit her lengthy Honors Thesis. I have learned more than I ever thought I could between qualitative and quantitative analysis to literature searches. I have met so many amazing mentors in this process and could not be more grateful for the Office of Undergraduate Research and their support along the way. I would recommend the research program to any ambitious student who has even a slight interest. You never know where that interest may lead.