Ruth M. Kleinpell, RN-CS, PhD, FCCM
To some, the word “research” conjures up notions of test tubes, microscopes, measuring tools, data collection forms and statistics. One summer, as I was consumed with writing a research grant in conjunction with my position at Rush University Medical Center, I came home to find that my son, then aged 6, had drawn a picture for me, which I have saved.
It reads, “Dear Mom, I [know] that doing [research] is hard work. I [know, why] don’t you take a break and go do something fun!” He obviously had seen me working intently on the research grant proposal and, while not even really knowing what research was, he astutely identified that “research is hard work.”
The word “research” is derived from the French word “recherche”, which means “to go about seeking.” Of interest, the Encyclopedia Britannica identifies the earliest recorded use of the word “research” in 1577. Over the years, research has become an essential component of critical care as we seek to improve care for patients and their families.
Research is essential to inform clinicians of better ways to manage and treat critical illness, to learn the impact of intensive care unit (ICU) care on patients and families, and to ultimately improve outcomes. Since the founding of the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM), research has been embedded in the fabric of the organization. Dr. Weil, a founding member and the first president of the Society, was an accomplished researcher whose work improved the understanding of the pathophysiology of shock states, the importance of blood lactate levels and the mechanisms of lung edema, including the role of colloid osmotic pressure.
Over the past several years, SCCM has increased its focus on research. In 2009, the four largest professional societies involved in critical care in the United States—the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, the American College of Chest Physicians, the American Thoracic Society, and SCCM—formally established the Critical Care Societies Collaborative (CCSC) to “leverage its collective and multiprofessional expertise to optimize the care of the critically ill and injured through communication, education, research, and advocacy” (ccsconline.org). At that time, in spite of the importance of critical care, there was no consensus on the research agenda in the United States. To overcome deficiencies in the conduct and expansion of critical care research, the four CCSC societies joined with the United States Critical Illness and Injury Trials (USCIIT) and formed the Multisociety Strategic Planning Task Force for Critical Care Research. The task force defined a comprehensive agenda and blueprint for critical care research based on input from a broad range of stakeholders. Among the themes that emerged, the research agenda identified that “an enhanced infrastructure for critical care research is essential for future success” (Deutschman CS, et al. Crit Care Med. 2012;40:254-260).
Recognizing this need, the Society has worked to support SCCM members conducting research. The number of research grants both given by and to the Society has increased exponentially. Research submissions for presentation at the 2017 Congress alone grew by 50% over last year’s already record number. As announced recently at Congress, the SCCM Council approved an additional $3.5 million expenditure to launch the Society’s latest research endeavor, our own critical care research network titled Discovery, the Critical Care Research Network (#DiscoveryNet).
Through Discovery, SCCM will foster collaborative research to promote the advancement of science in the field to improve outcomes for critically ill and injured patients. Discovery will seek to exponentially increase research in the critical care field and to use SCCM’s existing broad base of programs to disseminate its findings into practice.
Joining SCCM for the launch of this endeavor are USCIIT and the Critical Care Pharmacotherapy Trials Network, who became part of the new Discovery program. Bringing together these highly successful existing networks will jump-start Discovery activities. Other existing research networks with a similar focus are also invited to join SCCM in this exciting endeavor.
The Society will support Discovery with a multimilliondollar investment in professional staff, infrastructure and research grants. In addition, the Discovery Oversight Committee and Discovery Steering Committee have been established to provide guidance for an inclusive, diverse, integrated and multidisciplinary network for research that improves outcomes across the continuum of care for critically ill patients and their families.
Discovery will complement the existing research support that SCCM offers, including the THRIVE Grant, which offers $50,000 in funding to SCCM members conducting research aimed at improving patient and family support after critical illness.
Additionally, the SCCM-Weil Research Trust was created in 2015 to fund research grants. Named for the Society’s founder and first president, Dr. Max Harry Weil, the SCCM-Weil Research Trust is SCCM’s commitment to being part of the discovery and innovation needed to help secure future advances in the ICU for our patients. Similarly, the Norma J. Shoemaker Award honors founding Executive Director Norma J. Shoemaker, MN, FCCM, and is given to support the research studies of an SCCM nurse member. It was created to encourage research in critical care nursing and to provide funding for the continuation of research endeavors.
Research is indeed hard work—but essential work. In recognizing the ongoing need to support SCCM members conducting research, the Society continues to expand its commitment to research. I look forward to serving this year as the 46th president of SCCM, and I welcome the opportunity to further the mission and goals of the Society, including the focus on research!