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“Changing Practice Through Science:” Q&A with Warren Frankenberger, PhD

Published on August 5, 2020 in Cornerstone Blog · Last Updated 2 years 6 months ago


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Warren Frankenberger, PhD, RN, nurse scientist in the Center for Pediatric Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice, focuses his research on emergency nursing, triage practice, and patient outcomes.

Editor’s Note: With the World Health Organization (WHO)’s designation of 2020 as “Year of the Nurse and the Midwife,” we are taking this special opportunity to recognize the community of nurse scientists at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Throughout the year, we will feature nurse researchers in a series of Q&As that touch on everything from their research projects to the unique perspective of nurse scientists. This Q&A with Warren Frankenberger, PhD, RN, nurse scientist in the Center for Pediatric Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice at CHOP, is the second in the series. We are proud to share the valuable work and wisdom of our CHOP nurse scientists!

How long have you been at CHOP?

I'm coming up to 24 years at CHOP. This is where I started as a practical nurse in the Seashore House, and I just kept going to school until I finished my PhD. CHOP has provided me the opportunity to grow as a professional and a scientist.

When did you start to integrate research into your career and why?

I've always been interested in research and clinical inquiry. When I was at the Biobehavioral unit at the Seashore House, I was involved in working with researchers to collect data on patients’ behaviors and medication trials. In the emergency department (ED), I was very interested in the studies that were being conducted by the physicians. I participated in education and data collection, and even though I was participating in other people's studies, it became clear that I wanted to study nursing phenomena. I wanted to start driving my own nursing research questions. During my time at Widener University in the Master's/PhD program, my nursing lens guided my research questions.

What are some of the research questions that you started with?

Originally, I was interested in high intensity environments and safe patient care. So, I started to explore resilience and experiences of stress, and how nurses function in an ED environment. I wanted to know “What made an ED nurse tick?”


Has your clinical practice influenced your nursing research or vice versa?

Definitely — especially as a nurse in the ED dealing with a high stress environment and cognitive overload while performing critical care, specifically in the area of trauma and resuscitation. In the last two years, I have been highly engaged with the Emergency Nurses Association and the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN) – both of those collaborations influenced new areas of inquiry.

PECARN is predominately a physician-driven multicenter research network. One of the goals of PECARN is to support nursing research. Working within the PECARN collaborative has shifted some of my focus to patient outcomes research. I recently published a study that examined research priorities and identified what, from the bedside nursing standpoint, are the concerns of the nurses that need to be solved through research. Across the country, nurses identified triage practices as a key priory. As a result, I’m conducting a systematic review of the literature on pediatric triage. I am also applying to access the PECARN registry, a large ED data repository, to describe current practices in triage across nine children’s hospitals.

Why do you think the unique perspective of nurse scientists is so important?

Overwhelming evidence has shown nursing care, based in science to intervene into a child’s life as early as possible, improves health outcomes. As nurse scientists, we need to generate the best evidence to continue to address the health needs of children.

What do you enjoy most about being a nurse scientist? What inspires you to keep going in this role?

I always ask the simple question: How can we make healthcare better for children? What excites me about nursing research and being a nurse scientist is that I have the opportunity to move nursing practice forward through scientific inquiry. It is a serious responsibility as well as a privilege.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future in the nursing research spaces?

Nursing care in the emergency room is episodic and brief, yet ED nurses have a significant impact on children’s entry into the healthcare system, caring for them during a critical period, and moving them along the healthcare continuum. I want to ensure that nurses are providing the best pediatric emergency care that is equitable and based in science. As healthcare evolves, our nursing practice must also evolve.

Great! Do you have any advice for aspiring nurse scientists?

Start with something that you're passionate about and then find a mentor. Science is never a solo endeavor.

Learn more about Dr. Frankenberger’s research.