InspireNet: Virtual platform, real impact

InspireNet, a province-wide network supported by MSFHR through the BC Nursing Health Research Initiative (BCNRI), was recently approved for a one-year funding extension through October 31, 2014.

InspireNet (Innovative Nursing Services and Practices Informed by Research and Evaluation Network), a province-wide network supported by MSFHR through the BC Nursing Research Initiative (BCNRI), was recently approved for a one-year funding extension through October 31, 2014.

The extension will help InspireNet sustain and enhance its ongoing work to build connections between researchers and practitioners through an online “virtual platform.” Since 2009, InspireNet has played an important role in engaging nurses, researchers, policy-makers, and students across BC in health services research. The network’s steadily growing membership now stands at more than 2,700.

“We’re very happy with the uptake of InspireNet, and there’s obviously a need for this type of a virtual platform to support these teams,” says Grace Mickelson, network co-leader from the Provincial Health Services Authority.

BCNRI research priority areas

  • care delivery
  • nursing health human resources
  • practice-relevant education
  • impact of policy decisions on the quality and safety of the practice (work) environment
  • proactive approaches to enhancing quality and safety of the practice environment

InspireNet’s innovative model harnesses Web 2.0 technologies to bring like-minded individuals together. Research teams and health care practitioners working in one of BCNRI’s priority areas (see sidebar) can apply for an “electronic community of practice” (eCOP) to facilitate discussion and collaboration among team members. Through these communities, InspireNet provides a range of online tools, including web-conferencing, discussion forums, blogs, event calendars, document libraries, collaborative wikis, and shared contact lists.

InspireNet eCOPs currently support more than 40 teams across a broad range of research topics and health care disciplines.

“The technology platform has been absolutely critical for supporting the formation of research partnerships across the province, because these connections wouldn’t have been made and sustained without it,” Mickelson says.

The eCOP model has also proven valuable in encouraging participation from health care professionals by archiving online discussions, webinars, and resources that can be accessed outside of working hours through InspireNet’s 11 “Action Teams.” These teams are open to all InspireNet members and focus on specific topics, such as healthy workplace climate, e-health, e-technologies, and informatics. Mickelson notes nearly two thirds of InspireNet members work in a health authority or clinical practice setting, so the ability to offer “asynchronous” participation is an important factor in engaging this audience.

"Diverse perspectives, diverse expertise"

The network’s initial mandate focused on supporting nurses to engage in practice-relevant research activities; however, practitioners, policy-makers, and researchers from outside the nursing field have been drawn in greater numbers to take advantage of InspireNet’s resources.

At a November 2012 forum, InspireNet’s leadership endorsed the decision to welcome more interprofessional teams focused on issues across the health services research spectrum. Since then, the Interdisciplinary Public Health Club has been launched as an Action Team, and 17 established research teams have applied to join InspireNet as “Closed Teams” – a new category of team that uses the InspireNet platform to support research activities in a password-protected eCOP.

Mickelson points to InspireNet’s leadership model, which includes collaboration between the academic and health sectors, as a source of the network’s strength.

“It’s really brought in diverse perspectives, diverse expertise,” she says. “One of our missions was to create collaborative advantage by bringing these different groups together, and I think we’ve really been able to do that.”

With funding renewed through October 2014, InspireNet is moving forward actively with a range of initiatives. The network is working with MSFHR to evolve its knowledge translation action plan, and it has begun to offer knowledge translation learning opportunities to members. Upcoming projects include “Get Your Research Out,” a collaboration with the BCNRI-funded nursing research facilitators that will help novice researchers present their findings effectively. InspireNet members and leaders have also participated in consultation sessions for the MSFHR-facilitated provincial health research strategy.

“We’re interested in how we can best contribute to the evolving health research landscape in BC,” says Mickelson. “We’re learning every day from all that’s going on.”

Membership in InspireNet is free for health care professionals, researchers, and students interested in health services. For more information, visit www.inspirenet.ca.