Aggie Black - Research Leader, Professional Practice

Aggie Black - Research Leader, Professional Practice

Written by Evan Duxbury

25 years ago, Aggie was working on a humanitarian project in Nicaragua, where she was exposed to all manner of healthcare professionals. However, it was the nurses she worked with who most inspired her and led her to pursue a nursing degree at the University of Washington. After coming to Canada she completed her Masters of Public Health at SFU, and completed several research projects in grad school and with the Cancer Agency. She was then hired into a two-year grant-funded position at PHC as the nursing research facilitator to support nurses to engage with research.

In my new role, I created the Research Challenge at Providence after learning of something similar at University Health Network in Toronto. I love how the program gets us asking our staff, ‘what do you think?’ instead of telling them, ‘we have all the answers.’”

Since its inception, the program’s results have been impressive. A study on individualized hemophilia treatment not only changed practice in the provincial hemophilia clinic, but won a PHC quality and safety award and may soon be getting some television coverage, while a project on the “hypothermia protocol” (where patients are cooled after cardiac arrest to prevent organ damage) has produced a new order set which has reduced delays by 50%.

I love my job. It gives me the opportunity to hear about clinicians’ innovative ideas, give them a research refresher course, a mentor and some funding, then watch them take off.“

Six of PHC’s Research Challenge teams have published articles in peer-reviewed journals, some have received external funding and the program has produced over 60 conference presentations.

This wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the support of the leadership team at PHC. They were so open to getting clinicians, from nurses to pharmacists, involved in research that they supported almost every crazy idea I came up with.”

The Michael Smith Foundation extended its funding of the nursing research facilitator position after the program’s initial two years of success, and when the four years of grant funding ended, the role became a permanent position at PHC.

PHC seems to be unusually aware of the need to support front-line workers. Patient safety is the foundation, but a lot of thought and effort is put into nurturing our staff, helping them feel heard and keeping them coming to work as energized as possible, wanting to be here. This project is one tiny piece of that. If you’ve spent much time with our clinicians, you’d see how that’s paying off. They’re amazing, the knowledge they hold and the variety of tasks they perform leaves me in awe.”

The Research Challenge funds approximately 10 teams each year, usually enrolling in February. To learn more, click here. If you want to get involved, contact Aggie at All you need is a question, one or more teammates and enthusiasm for research!

Click here to see current nursing opportunities at Providence Health Care