Meet My Team: Learn how nursing research coordinators support nurse-directed research

Mayo Clinic's Nursing Research Coordinators include, from left to right: Melanie Schneekloth, Hannah Friesen, Kathleen Leistikow, Pamela Peterson and Chelsea Kallinen. Not pictured: Kathy Sheffield.

Nurse scientists at Mayo Clinic conduct studies to improve the health and well-being of patients and their caregivers. Nursing research coordinators help them do that by recruiting and enrolling study participants and more. Learn what a typical day is like for them, what they look for in new colleagues, and what they'd be called if they were a band.

Mayo Clinic is a team of teams — many, many teams. So many that it's impossible to know what each of them does. This column will put that question to teams throughout Mayo, giving them a chance to share how they contribute to patient care and support colleagues throughout the organization. If there's a team you'd like to know more about or whose work you'd like to see highlighted, drop the News Center team a note and we’ll see what we can do.

Mayo Clinic's nursing research coordinators take their work seriously. But they aren't afraid to have a little fun.

"We do laugh a lot," says Kathleen Leistikow, a senior clinical research coordinator and interim study coordinator supervisor in the Division of Nursing Research. "We try to encourage each other and support each other, as sometimes the workload and patient experiences we encounter can be challenging."

Leistikow was drawn to her role in part by the variety it promised and in part by the opportunity to make a lasting change in healthcare.

"Our nurse scientists perform research in multiple areas of medicine," she says. "But ultimately every project is looking at improving our patients' experiences and working with bedside nurses to innovate their practice."

The News Center asked Leistikow to answer questions about her job and her team to get to know them better.

Tell us about your team. What is it your team does?

We're pretty great. (Patting my own shoulder.) We help with study setup, recruitment and enrollment, and we perform daily assessments of patients enrolled in studies. We ensure research studies are done ethically and following Institutional Review Board standards, which involves maintaining study systems (such as lab and data entry equipment) and meeting regulatory requirements.

How do you spend most of your day? 

No day is ever the same for our team, and we are jugglers of many duties and projects. We have multiple studies happening at one time. Sometimes, we might only work on one study for the day. On other days, we may also have new study meetings and activities, which involve preparing budgets with outside departments, creating study-specific documents, training staff on study protocols, and meeting with study investigators and staff for study implementation.

We could also be recruiting for a studyResearch is voluntary, and our team of coordinators works with families and patients to help them to participate if they choose to. We do this with sensitivity to the difficultly of being admitted to the hospital.

What might surprise people about the work your team does?

People may be surprised by the variety of research projects we work on. A few recent projects include ICU clinical trials across Mayo Clinic; a multicenter ICU study funded by the National Institutes of Health; breast and genitourinary cancer research in Rochester and Arizona; and caregiver and patient research.

We also support the Research Team Cluster program, which provides support to a group of practice-based nurses whose collective expertise is applied to a significant clinical problem or question for which there is limited or no information in the literature. Research teams develop and conduct a collaborative research study with institutional support, including mentoring by Ph.D.-prepared nurse scientists.

Another thing that might surprise people is that we enroll mechanically ventilated patients into studies, which involves performing cognitive assessments on patients to evaluate their eligibility.

Everyone at Mayo contributes to caring for patients. How does your team do that?

Our team helps patients participate in studies that may help to transform patient experience. These research studies also have the potential to help caregivers.

You're going to hire a new team member. Describe your ideal candidate.

The main attributes of the ideal candidate would be compassionate, self-sufficient, flexible, team-oriented and determined. The person should ideally have a spirit of curiosity and innovation, as our nurse scientists are seeking to improve and innovate the nursing practice. It would also be wonderful if a new team member had extensive knowledge of Mayo research systems as well as NIH, clinical trials and research studies.

What is a recent team success that you're proud of?

Our team has recently completed the enrollment goal in multisite trial, "Decreasing Delirium Through Music in Critically Ill Older Adults." We are a secondary site for this trial, which means a different organization manages the Institutional Review Board process. Sometimes our nurses scientists collaborate with physicians and nurses at other organizations, and this is one of those cases. 

If your team was a band, what would it be called? 

The Master Synchronizers.

If you had to describe your team's work in six words, what would your six-word story be?

Coordinating transforming research for patients and families.

Learn more

You can learn more about the Division of Nursing Research by visiting the group's internal or external sites.