Research in Nursing, Midwifery and Social Sciences

CQUniversity Nursing research has been ranked at 'well above world standard' in the latest Excellence for Research in Australia exercise. This is a significant achievement for a regional university and with ongoing recruitment and promotion of research active staff, the School aspires to become one of the best research schools in Australia. The School of Nursing and Midwifery research activities involve researchers from a range of disciplines creating a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary approach. The research areas have a strong focus on applied research with direct benefit to regional and rural Australia but of national and international significance.

CQUniversity Nursing research aligns under four primary research priority areas:

  • Quality and Safety in Healthcare
  • Health Workforce
  • Safe Communities
  • Psychosocial Wellbeing

Each priority area is overseen by a lead, whose main objective is to work with the school’s research leadership team to plan and discuss the strategies required to develop programs of research around each priority area and then oversee the implementation of same. Priority area leads will provide leadership for the cluster leads within their priority area and will be instrumental in ensuring all research conducted within our school aligns with our articulated priority areas. This is important if we are to maximise the benefits of our research to our communities and to ensure that our school’s Fields of Education (FoE) are well represented by the Fields of Research (FoR) our staff participate in.

There are research clusters that sit within each priority area. These clusters represent an identified group of projects that align to a particular topic or field of interest and whose project members knowingly or unknowingly work together towards achieving common objectives. The purpose of the School of Nursing Midwifery and Social Science’s research clusters is to push the boundaries of knowledge on topics across a diverse spectrum and to epitomize the interdisciplinary community that exists within our school. Identified research clusters offer the platform for members working in related areas of research, often from different disciplines, to collaborate, debate issues, and discuss mutual interests. Members meet regularly to discuss funding opportunities and industry collaborations, workshop new research directions, invite speakers, and plan collaborations. Each cluster has a lead, or co-leads, who encourage (and support) cluster members to organize events, ranging from small discussion groups up to national or international conferences, and all members, regardless of their career stage, are welcome to be involved. Researchers whose work aligns with a cluster are encouraged to join forces with likeminded investigators and form fruitful collaborations for grant applications, publication writing and potential RHD supervision projects and panels.

Our school acknowledges that collaboration, innovation, and interdisciplinarity are the catchphrases for continued success in terms of research growth and stability and these comprise the headings under which our research clusters will debate and develop our school’s priority areas moving forward. Collective endeavour will prove key to our sustained research activity and outputs, so projects that involve teamwork are essential, alongside individual research trajectories.

Priority lead Associate Professor Tracy Flenady

This priority area comprises research focused on keeping patients safe from preventable harm via improving the quality and safety of healthcare. Perpetual quality improvement and innovation in practice, along with clinicians’ increased capacity to provide quality healthcare, are instrumental factors when advancing the quality and safety of patient care at the health system and service level. Research in this priority area encompasses a broad range of healthcare foci and predominantly concentrates on applied research that adopts a multi-disciplinary approach when conducting research, acknowledging the strengths of different disciplinary and methodological backgrounds. In line with the World Health Organization’s statement that effective quality and safety improvement is the result of many activities using systematic methods over a period of time, work conducted within this priority includes all aspects of research concerning the review, monitoring, evaluation and communication methods utilised in health systems. Studies investigating the perspectives of health systems, health care providers, service users, and caregivers are also included. Research conducted within this priority area strives to create knowledge that provides solutions to real-world healthcare problems, therefore contributing positive impact for those people who live and work within our communities.


  • Patient Safety and Consumer Experience (Co-Leads – Stephen Yu and Professor Eileen Willis)
  • Clinicians’ capacity building (Lead – Dr Lisa Wirihana)
  • Maternal and Family Health (Lead – Dr Tanya Capper)

Priority lead Associate Professor Pauline Calleja

Australia’s health workforce is tasked with the significant function of providing effective, safe, quality care that improves the health and well-being of our country’s diverse communities. The value of research that contributes to the development of a sustainable health workforce is increasingly recognised. Recent, current or proposed research conducted by our school that can be found within this priority area acknowledges the importance of developing frameworks that align health systems/governance and health workforce policy/planning and explores the effects of changing skill mixes and competencies across sectors and multidisciplinary groups. Health Workforce research priority areas encompasses all aspects of workforce including, but not limited to, occupational health and safety for health workers, preparation and transition to practice, continuing education and evidence-based clinical and managerial models of care. Research found within this priority area contributes to the development of a future health workforce that is responsive to diverse population needs and considerate of demographic and economic change.


  • Clinical workforce (Co-Leads – Dr Ashlyn Sahay and Professor Amanda Henderson)
  • Models of care (Lead – Dr Adele Baldwin)
  • Preparation for & Transition to, practice (Lead – Amy-Louise Byrne)

Priority lead Dr Heather Lovatt

The Safe Communities priority area consists of research conducted to inform future initiatives designed to promote safety and prevent violence and abuse of, and to, all members of our communities. Most research conducted in this space is driven from the for Centre Domestic and Family Violence Research, which  (CDFVR) sits within the School of Nursing Midwifery and Social Sciences and is based in Mackay. The centre contributes to the prevention of domestic and family violence by informing, promoting and supporting the actions of individuals, communities, services and governments through state-wide leadership in research, professional development, education and community engagement. The Centre's research function is to initiate, undertake and collaborate on innovative and interdisciplinary research and publications to reduce deficits in domestic and family violence knowledge and literature. CDFVR is also committed to undertaking applied research that supports the development of policy and practice in the field of domestic and family violence prevention with a particular, though not exclusive, focus on issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and rural and regional communities.  The World Health Organization (WHO) Manifesto for Safe Communities states that "All human beings have an equal right to health and safety". Research within this priority area complements a growing world-wide movement known as trauma informed practice, which acknowledges that trauma from neglect, violence and abuse is common in society and can lead to physical and mental health problems and psychosocial disability and disempowerment. Trauma can occur across the lifespan – and may be associated with child mistreatment, sexual violence, bullying, violent crime, marginalization, war and displacement. Research in this area is aiming to find structural solutions to prevent and resolve the consequences of trauma on individuals and communities.


  • Gendered Violence (Lead – Dr Liane McDermott)
  • Violence, Abuse & Neglect (Lead – Emily Hurren Paterson)

Professor Michelle Cleary

Wellbeing is not only the absence of illness or disease, but a complex combination of mental, emotional, physical, and social health factors. This research priority area is concerned with psychosocial wellbeing and comprises research that acknowledges the cultural, social, environmental, economic and political factors that impact the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. Work conducted within this priority reflects the World Health Organization’s 2020 global policy for health and wellbeing by acknowledging the importance of people-centred health systems and creating supportive environments and resilient communities. Topics regarding the wellbeing of diverse, minority and marginalised populations are located within this priority area.


  • Aged Care  (Lead - Jennifer Mulvogue)
  • Individuals, families, and communities (Co-leads – Katrina Lane-Krebs & Dr Colleen Johnston-Devin)
  • Mental health nursing (Lead – Associate Professor Julie Bradshaw)
Professor Trudy Dwyer introducing the EDDIE Research project



So EDDIE is Early Detection of Deterioration In the Elderly and it's about identifying when someone becomes unwell in an aged care facility, intervening early and keeping them at home.  So specifically what we're trying to solve is how do we upskill the staff in aged care facilities so that they’re best skilled to keep people in the aged care facility and how do we save healthcare dollars as well, by treating people in the aged care facility and stopping them from presenting to the emergency department at hospital.  PresCare, which is a residential aged care facility here in Queensland, have developed up what they’ve called as a subacute program, and what subacute is, is they've identified that their residents in their facilities, when they become unwell, they wanted to keep them at home so to speak in the facility rather than transferring them up to the hospital, because when someone who’s elderly gets transferred to the hospital, we find that their length of stay is long in hospital and quite often they may return back to the facility in a worse condition than they presented within the first instance.  And so PresCare have developed up the subacute program which supports staff by providing more equipment, providing extra training so that they can keep the residents at home so can they identify when they’re unwell

Our relationship began back in 2013 and we've actually been looking at how we can improve the outcomes for residents in looking at alternatives to transfer to hospital. For PresCare, success actually means that we were able to meet the choices and preferences of our care recipients and for a lot of them they don't want to go to hospital, and if we are able to meet that need, that provides a very positive outcome for the care recipient and for PresCare.  Out of the results that we’ve actually found, could actually be a benefit across the aged care industry as a whole.  Working with CQUni actually gives us validated evidence of the practical applications that we’re putting in place.

We have reduced hospital length stays, on an average, they’ll stay in hospital three days shorter and we also found that we can prevent ninety-five admissions for every thousand residents that we have identified, and over time we're finding that we can actually save millions of dollars as a result of doing that.  We’ve also found from an industry perspective, it saves healthcare dollars.  It saves the Q care dollar because we’re not transferring residents and it’s taking longer in hospital.  The program, the subacute program in the aged care facility only costs $4,500 to implement and we can save millions of dollars over time with this.  We’re starting to translate the knowledge that we've learned with implementing within the PresCare sector over into the acute care sector with aged care.  So we're now working with Queensland Health with early detection of deterioration and implementing some of the strategies that we've identified in the past.  So I think that the big difference with what the EDDIE project is – is to a lot of other studies that are around, is it’s about empowering the staff within the aged care facilities to care for residents in that area.  They’ve identified it’s important to keep people at home and they’ve implemented a strategy to do that.  And working in collaboration with us at CQU, we’ve helped to identify that yes it does actually work, we’ve got the evidence that it does work, and yes we’ve got the evidence now that it will save the healthcare dollar.


Mask-Ed - The new face of education



One of the areas that has been missing in our undergraduate programs, is the ability to teach students to touch the untouchables and that is dealing with very intimate human care. How do you deal with faeces, urine, genitalia, showering people for the very first time. So for first-year students coming in, when we know that their first clinical placement is going to have to be involved in that sort of care, we were missing in the preparation of that. We had used mannequins which are false, which are not real and so I decided that I would start to use the full props and dress up where students could shower me, bath me, change my pads, whatever else that needed to occur. So that’s essentially the ability to be able to prepare students for the real world in the safety net of a classroom with characters, these Mask-Ed characters whom they know, whom they are also connected to, because in essence the characters are vulnerable and that allows the human connection.

We didn't have that patient nurse realism. We had a mannequin that would lay there, a mannequin that wouldn't talk back. It wasn’t very realistic and when Kerry came in as this character, they became a real person and we got to fall in love with these people and they became our patients that we then had feelings towards. We wanted to care for them, they became our friends. But in a safe environment where we could go out and do nursing and make those mistakes and know that we weren't going to kill the patient, that we were going to learn from them. I feel so much more comfortable finishing my degree and going out into the real life world now. I feel that I have learnt some valuable skills through Mask-Ed that I couldn’t have learnt without having that real life character there.


What we were trying to understand were, what were students’ experiences before and after this. So that in reality, we assumed that students would be concerned about not being able to be prepared to do these skills out there in the real world and what our research found out was indeed that, but even more. We found that by exposing students to this sort of intimate care in the safety net of a classroom, not only built on their confidence but they felt safe. They also felt safe in terms of the patient, in terms of identifying things that were risks for the patient. They also gained confidence and they started to feel that they were doing real nursing care in this safe environment of the University, which then would prepare them for the real world of practice.

When we go out into the real world, it feels like we have been there and done that with Stanley. He has basically prepped us for becoming graduate nurses.


Mask-Ed will never stop. Mask-Ed continues, needs to have people around it that is going to continue with the innovation and the designs. I think the more people who embrace it, the more ideas we have, the more research that we have. If somebody had of said to me eight years ago what the outcomes would have been for Mask-Ed, I would never have believed them.

To me, Stanley is Stanley, to me, Muriel is Muriel and I’m really going to miss them when I graduate.