Nursing research: e-cohort nurses' survey funds run out

1 March 2012

A lack of funding has seen the longitudinal e-cohort survey of New Zealand and Australian nurses come to a halt after only five years.

The ambitious annual online survey began in 2006 with about 1300 New Zealand nurses and midwives joining nearly 8000 Australian nurses and midwives in the study. The researchers initially hoped that it could continue for many years much like the famous Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which is still going after 35 years.

The most recent information from the online survey was collected from nurses in 2011.

The University of Queensland-based study had received a five-year Australian Research Council grant and grants from two state health departments, but the research team did not seek further funding in Australia and attempts to gain New Zealand funding were unsuccessful.

Massey University’s Annette Huntington, principal investigator for the New Zealand branch of the study, said it was disappointing that the survey was not funded for longer, but it was “ not a surprise” as it was extremely difficult to get on-going funding for longitudinal studies.

She said while it would have been ideal for the study to continue, it had gathered an “enormous” amount of data through three data surveys over the five years, and once published, the information would be of “real value to the health sector”.

Huntington said the interesting factor from a research point of view was that an online annual survey was not as simple and inexpensive as first envisaged.

“The assumption was that it (online surveying) was going to be a lot cheaper but we actually found there were considerable follow-ups costs.”

While more than 10,000 nurses registered for the study, only 75 per cent or 7604 nurses completed the first survey and that dropped to 5280 for the second survey.

She said there were up to four research assistants working to follow-up with participants to update their details and encouraging them to continue taking part each year so the fallout rate was not too high.

Huntington said analysis of the data provided material for 16 research publications, mostly in international journals, and a further ten were in the pipeline.

“We’ve still got a lot of data that needs to be reported on – and there is a big push now to get the publications out.”

The study had also supported nine postgraduate nursing and midwifery students and a postdoctoral research student. The data had been archived so other researchers could access it and publish.

Meanwhile, Huntington said the graduate e-cohort study, following about 450 graduates from the three university nursing schools in New Zealand and three universities in Australia, Canada, and Ireland was still ongoing.

The study is following cohorts of graduates from 2009, 2010, and 2011 to examine the workforce choices of the graduate nurses and midwives in their first years of practice.