Listening to the latest John Lennon ‘Hits’ compilation today, I was trying to work out whether ‘Imagine’ is either the glib sloganising that critics maintain or the profound call to thinking that aficionados prefer. As usual, I opted for somewhere in between.

I buy the idea of imagining possibilities and envisioning a preferred future. Just so long as we don’t stop at the imagining part and forget to actually work hard to make it happen.

This is crucial in my work helping organisations develop their research culture. The NHHRC health reform report here in Australia has created a compelling vision of the positive research culture that our our hospitals, health services and education partners could enjoy, where:

“Research is valued and enabled as a normal part of providing health services”. (p.6)
“Our health workforce is empowered to take on the challenge of continuous learning, research and innovation”. (p.140)
“A vibrant culture of innovation and research should permeate health services, with effective linkages and partnerships across universities, research institutes, and hospitals and health services.” (p.138)

Pause for a moment to drink in the full implications of these recommendations and imagine:

Imagine our hospitals and health services as places where research, thinking, questioning and evaluation were routine and unremarkable, where they were indeed a ‘normal’ part of care and service delivery.

Imagine if access to time, resources and support for research were not something that health professionals had to constantly ‘fight for’ but rather they were provided because they are integral to their performance.

Imagine if the nursing budget that health boards allocate to hospitals and services for ‘productive nursing hours’ recognised that research can indeed be as ‘productive’ as direct care.

Imagine in ‘staff empowerment’ were to actually mean something.

Imagine if time allocated for research, evaluation and the challenging and questioning of existing practices and services was not considered to be ‘time off’ but emphatically time ON.

Imagine if staff taking time out from the demands of clinical, service provision or teaching to plan and operationalise their research strategy was considered to be an advance rather than a ‘retreat’.

Imagine if every nurse seeking employment at a hospital or service was told that if you want to be good enough to join our team here, be aware that research will be an essential part of your job.

Imagine if every job interview and every ‘performance review’ focused on research involvement as well as on clinical skills, communication, interpersonal relationships and other essentials.

Just Imagine, but as you keep imagining, start the rest of the process of making it happen and enabling your colleagues to make it happen. Now that’s ‘Power to the People’.

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