Tips for Creating a Multidisciplinary Research Team Focused on Symptom Management

May 19, 2018

Catherine Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN, of the University of Pittsburgh, and Amy Hoffman, PhD, RN, of Michigan State University, shared their experiences in building interdisciplinary research tea ( to assess symptom management during a session at the 43rd Annual Congress in Washington, DC (

Hoffman explained her work in lung cancer, which is the most common, deadliest solid tumor worldwide. Survivors experience multiple concurrent, severe symptoms, of which fatigue is especially prevalent and poorly managed. In addition, fatigue and lack of exercise are the most frequently reported unmet supportive care needs for patients with lung cancer.

To fill the scientific gap, Hoffman created a team of nurses, thoracic surgeons, pulmonologists, exercise scientists, and biostatisticians to study fatigue and physical activity in patients with lung cancer.

“Find positive people to surround yourself with, and include them on your team,” she concluded.

Bender then discussed how to develop and sustain a productive research team. The first phase of a research project should include a review of the previously published science in that field. Base on the informed literature and network, potential collaborators and mentors will emerge. Collaborators should have expertise in the area of research, increase productivity, have a history of collaboration or mentoring, and be realistic about time to commit. “Look for people who play nice in the sandbox,” she said.

Team leaders should decide the direction of the research and pursue grant funding, and she cautioned that sometimes a group can have competing personal and professional goals. The group will also need to identify who will take the lead and be the primary author of the study.

At the same time, leave room to allow the team to foster development of a future generation of nurse scientists. “Integrate mentees into your research team,” Bender said, allowing them to take the lead on certain aspects of a project.

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