In this edition of our OPEN FORUM Series, Constance Mussa, PhD, RRT, RRT-NPS, assistant professor in the department of cardiopulmonary sciences at Rush University in Chicago, IL, explains how and why she embarked on her Editors’ Choice-winning study on COPD patients who use long-term oxygen therapy.
Why did you decide to conduct the study, “Perspectives from COPD Subjects on Long-Term Oxygen Therapy (LTOT) Devices”? What piqued your interest in this topic?
The study is a follow-up to a previous study I conducted in which individuals with COPD responded to a survey designed to determine how the LTOT devices they use affect their perceived mobility and quality of life. The final survey question was open-ended and invited the survey participants to write anything they wanted to share about their experiences with LTOT devices. I was absolutely stunned to see that over 300 participants wrote detailed responses about their experiences with LTOT devices that were poignant as well as intriguing.
Was this your first time conducting a research study? If not how many other studies have you conducted and where have you presented them or had them published?
No, I have conducted several research studies, and have presented at the AARC OPEN FORUM, the Rush University Research Forum, and the Americas Conference on Information Systems. I have had two original research papers and a special article published in RESPIRATORY CARE.
What did you do to gain support from your organization to conduct this study?
After reading some of the survey participants’ comments, it was obvious to me that they contained very important information about the impact of LTOT devices on COPD patients’ quality of life, but the comments needed to be analyzed using a formal qualitative methodology. I knew that this undertaking would require a considerable amount of time and expertise, as well as qualitative data analysis software. Consequently, I discussed the merits of conducting the study with the chairperson of my department, David Vines, and he provided all the support needed to conduct the study.
What were the biggest challenges you faced as you carried out the study and how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges was cleaning up and organizing the data, which required the help of qualitative data analysis software that was very expensive. Additionally, I had never conducted qualitative research, and so that was rather daunting, and I also had no idea how to use any of the available qualitative data analysis software. The cost problem was resolved by initially using a trial version of the software, and subsequently, the respiratory care graduate student who worked with us on the study eventually found a vendor who offered discounted student pricing for the software. I spent months learning to use the software and then sought the expertise of two qualitative researchers to help with the data analysis.
How difficult was it to work the study into your normal job responsibilities and how did you alter your work routine to make it happen? Do you think it was worth the time and effort?
Research in general is very time consuming, but this research involved a fairly steep learning curve in terms of both the research methodology and software. Consequently, this research consumed a lot of my time outside of work hours. However, it was well worth the effort to see the data “come alive” and tell the participants’ stories.
How did it feel to learn that your abstract had been accepted to the OPEN FORUM — and most especially, that it was selected for the Editor’s Choice session?
Having an abstract accepted to the OPEN FORUM was an honor that made me feel like the hard work that my co-authors and I put into the study was well compensated. It was as if our work had been given legitimacy. I was speechless with awe when I was informed that the study had been selected for the Editors’ Choice session, and whenever I think about it, even now, it puts a spring in my step; it is so amazing to me that we received this honor.
How do you think conducting a study like this and having it accepted to the OPEN FORUM is helping to further your career in respiratory care?
Having the study accepted to the OPEN FORUM is very encouraging because it’s as if we got two “thumbs up” from our fellow RTs and the research community. Acceptance of the study abstract to the OPEN FORUM pushed me and my co-authors to complete and submit the manuscript to RESPIRATORY CARE for possible publication. I can happily report that the manuscript for the study was recently accepted for publication in the Journal.
What advice do you have for other therapists who might like to follow in your footsteps, but just don’t know how to get started?
I would urge respiratory therapists interested in research to pay close attention to problems they encounter in their everyday work, then talk to their colleagues at work, conferences, and other venues to see if they have encountered the same problem. If it indeed seems to be a problem that is not confined to a single organization, doing a quick search can provide more detailed information about the problem, including information about whether and how the problem should be studied.
Are you planning to conduct more studies in the future? If so, what will you study next and why?
Yes, I am planning to conduct several studies that center around the development of standardized terminologies for respiratory care. There is an urgent need for us as respiratory therapists to be able to definitively link our interventions to patient outcomes so that we can demonstrate our value to patient care. Currently, this is very difficult to do because there are no standard labels that respiratory therapists use to identify specific patient problems for which we provide diagnostic and/or therapeutic interventions. This seriously hampers concise, accurate patient-centered respiratory care documentation in the electronic health record, which in turn prevents easy retrieval of information about the care we provide.