Belonging to a Midwest Nursing Research Society (MNRS) Research Interest Group (RIG) is a remarkable way to network, find and provide mentorship, meet research collaborators, hone your leadership skills, grow as a professional, and develop your research potential. By leveraging the collective talents of their members across all levels of expertise from senior faculty to junior faculty to students, the Health Promoting Behaviors Across the Lifespan (HPBAL) RIG, whose members focus their research on health promotion, disease prevention, and self-management, is a prime example of how membership in a RIG can become an essential component for a career in nursing research and service in the Midwest.
Dr. Susan Rawl, recipient of the 2018 HPBAL RIG Senior Investigator Award, has been a member of MNRS since 1984 when she joined as a first-year PhD student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She began her leadership trajectory by reviewing abstracts and volunteering to assist at conferences; then progressed to HPBAL RIG chair where she organized and led highly successful preconference workshops. She next became a member of the annual conference Program Planning Committee, then Secretary, and ultimately, she was elected as MNRS President, a role which she served from 2015-2017 while a Professor at the Indiana University School of Nursing. Dr. Rawl has established herself as a distinguished member not only of the HPBAL RIG, but the entire MNRS organization. She says, “Every leadership position taught me something new about MNRS and about myself…At every point along the way, I had the great pleasure to work with incredible people who are committed to the growth and development of nurse scientists at every point in their careers.”
The members of the HPBAL RIG continue to lead by example and support junior members to take on leadership roles, as demonstrated by their current Co-Chairs, Sydney Buckland (PhD candidate) and Dr. Shannon Halloway. Buckland said that in 2017, she was very excited to learn that her poster was chosen by University of Nebraska Medical Center to represent the school in the PhD student poster selection. She has been a HPBAL RIG member for a few years and felt the time was right for her to become more involved, so she offered to co-chair the RIG. She believes Dr. Rawl’s commitment to a regional nursing research organization demonstrates its worth, both as a rich source of opportunity as well as a wonderful place to take first steps toward a larger, national stage. Buckland has “felt so welcomed and supported here as I myself foray into new territory as an emerging leader.”
Dr. Halloway echoes Ms. Buckland’s sentiments. She also joined MNRS as a Rush University College of Nursing PhD student and gave her first podium presentation in 2014. She has continued to attend the conference and present each year since. Dr. Halloway first became involved in MNRS leadership as a student representative for the Gerontology RIG, and later became a school representative and Secretary for the Emerging Scholars Network. Dr. Halloway states, “MNRS has provided me countless opportunities for networking, career development, and collaboration with peers and mentors across the region.”
As the 2019 MNRS Annual Research Conference quickly approaches, we hope you will take a moment to consider how you might approach mentors, colleagues, and leadership opportunities that could strengthen your career. Dr. Rawl advises, that “the annual meeting is a place to meet potential collaborators who share your research interests and that making those connections is helpful to everyone and insures strong research training opportunities for future nurse scientists.” Dr. Halloway encourages engaging with the Emerging Scholars Network, particularly as a member of the executive committee or a as a student liaison! She believes that “this is the perfect place for students, post-docs and new faculty members to become involved in MNRS. In addition, attend the annual conference and go to the RIG meetings. There you will connect with members of all levels who are interested in the same areas as you are.”
Dr. Rawl also encourages members to be incredibly proud of MNRS and its accomplishments: “When you first join MNRS, you may not realize what a gem we have here in the Midwest. But when you get out on the national scene, you quickly realize that no other regional nursing research organization compares to MNRS. The opportunities for research career development and for leadership development are unparalleled. If you appreciate what MNRS has done for you or has meant to you, then you have an obligation to pay it forward. If you are committed to nursing science and its growth and development, there is no better way to demonstrate that than to share your time, treasure, and talent with this fine organization.”
Finally, Dr. Rawl would like members to get involved in any capacity in which you are comfortable; it can be small – every contribution is valuable. “But if you do commit to serve,” she says, “be sure to do your best, and opportunities to lead will follow. Colleagues will know they can count on you to follow through and will be ready to follow you as you advance your leadership. Jump in and come on board…MNRS needs you!”
As for the HPBAL RIG, they are excited about expanding beyond their RIG to collaborate with other RIGs in hosting joint sessions that will highlight the diversity of their membership, as well as continuing to capitalize on their strength of mentorship and leadership.