The OWL Project: Building nurses and midwives leadership skills, research, and evidence-based practice capabilities

OWL Participant’s with the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Adjunct Associate Professor Jenny Hurley, The Honourable Mr Chris Picton, MP for Health and Well-Being, Professor Marion Eckert and Dr Judy Duchscher, on International Nurses Day, May 12, 2023

This challenge results in nurses and midwives finding themselves without the essential knowledge required to comprehend, apply, and lead clinical research efforts.2 To address this issue, researchers at the Rosemary Bryant AO Research Centre (RBRC) of the University of South Australia (UniSA) have developed a program for South Australian nurses and midwives to build their research, leadership and evidence-based practice capabilities, titled the Outstanding Workforce Leaders Project (OWL Project).

It is widely acknowledged that the best and highest-quality care is underpinned by evidence.3 The incorporation of evidence-based practice (EBP) into clinical practice requires practitioners to translate research findings into tangible actions; a task that is not always simple.1,3 As Australia’s largest and most diverse health workforce, involved in almost all sectors of healthcare delivery, it is of great importance that nurses and midwives are equipped to apply EBP. Unfortunately, nurses and midwives are not provided with sufficient development opportunities to improve their research-based knowledge, limiting their contribution to evidence-based, best practice. Consequently, this means that nurses and midwives are unqualified or under-prepared to contribute to research-related grant and scholarship applications, leadership, and healthcare reform.4

The OWL Program

The OWL Project is a six-month program hosted at the City East Campus of the University of South Australia that supports nurses and midwives to learn research skills while remaining at work and tackling issues they observe by using evidence-based methodologies. The project was developed and is delivered in collaboration with South Australian Local Health Networks.

The OWL program will next be running in May of 2024 in collaboration with the Northern Adelaide Local Health Network (NALHN) and the Women’s and Children’s Health Network (WCHN). Involvement will include attending intensive study days during the first and last weeks of the programs facilitated by top nursing and midwifery researchers from the University of South Australia and leaders in clinical practice from NALHN sites and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. The interactive sessions will cover a variety of key topics, including, searching and evaluating academic literature, clinical research and change management skills, data analysis, applying business-related research skills and translating research into practice.

During the program, participants will be given several assessments that contribute to the development of a small plan that focuses on addressing a knowledge or practice gap in a clinical practice area, with the final assessment involving presenting these research plans at the NALHN and WCHN Research Week. Throughout, there will be opportunities for one-on-one work with mentors, who provide support, guide learning, and assist in the development of research skills.

As the program is to be delivered in partnership with NALHN and the WCHN, it will be offered as a professional development certificate program and meets the requirement for continuing professional development specified by APHRA.

Program Evaluation

The program has now run for two years and has been received overwhelmingly positively by participants. After the most recent delivery of the program in 2023, participants were asked a range of questions about their experiences with the program:

  • When asked to rate the sessions delivered by the research and industry experts, 93.75% of the participants rated the sessions as either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.
  • 98.2% of participants either ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with a range of questions related to the overall presentation, preparation, and delivery of the program.
  • All participants who took part in the program either ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that they would recommend the program to colleagues/co-workers.
  • When asked at program completion if the course had increased their interest in undertaking research, implementation, evaluation, or quality improvement projects in the future, 100% of participants either ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’.

When evaluating the programs overall value and personal impact one participant noted:

“I had minimal knowledge prior to the OWL Project, but I had a real passion for implementing change within my working field & evidence-based practice. This project has taught me valuable lessons & has increased my desire to continue down/ further my research skills/knowledge into a Master’s in research. Thank you… for inspiring nurses/midwives to go into research!” – Anonymous (Nurse)

Participant Testimonials

Many participants of the OWL project have continued to higher-degree research programs or developed their research plan into a full research proposal with plans of leading their own research projects.

“…The OWL program has significantly enhanced my understanding of research preparation and various methodologies. I wholeheartedly endorse this program to prospective nursing candidates aspiring to pursue further studies… as it serves as a foundational platform for nursing leadership. The OWL program has enabled me to gain valuable insights into emerging and existing issues within the field of nursing…” – Arya Mukund (Nurse)

Arya is currently undertaking a Master’s in advanced practice nursing.

“Being new to the world of research, the OWL program gave me the knowledge, skills and confidence to be able to start a research project. Meeting researchers and working closely with a mentor was invaluable and ultimately resulted in me now carrying out the research at the hospital I work in. I love the fact that it is nurses making a real difference at the clinical level to patient care!” – Melissa Bruno (Nurse)

Melissa is now undertaking a secondment as a Lecturer in Palliative Care at Flinders University, and is planning on undertaking the research project that was designed as part of the OWL project: “…I finally got all the ethics approvals through and 1 week ago started to do my research… [I’m] learning a lot from this whole process and very grateful for the program[‘s] support.”

“I love and enjoy studying and take any opportunity that will help me grow and learn as a person and in my career. When the opportunity for the OWL Program came up – I took it. The OWL Program has given me skills and knowledge that’s helped me to pursue further studies this year. I highly recommend the program for those who are curious about a topic or an area of interest and/or unsure if they want to pursue a research degree in the future.” – Delnia Palani (Nurse)

Delina has commenced her Honours level study and is hoping to continue to into a PhD; “… [I am] very excited for the journey ahead.”

Getting Involved

The OWL project is planned to run annually. So far, the program has been based in South Australia, however, depending on interest there are opportunities for an online/ interstate delivery. If nurses/midwives are interested in getting involved, or any service providers would be interested in providing this professional development opportunity to their staff, please contact the lead researcher Dr Kate Davis at or the RBRC at +61 8 8302 2376. 


1 Scott K, McSherry R. Evidence-based nursing: clarifying the concepts for nurses in practice. J Clin Nurs. 2009;18(8):1085-95.

2 Dagne AH, Tebeje HD. Research utilisation in clinical practice: the experience of nurses and midwives working in public hospitals. Reprod Health. 2021;18(1):62.

3 Curtis K, Fry M, Shaban RZ, Considine J. Translating research findings to clinical nursing practice. J Clin Nurs. 2017;26(5-6):862-72.

4 Eckert M, Rickard CM, Forsythe D, Baird K, Finn J, Gilkison A, et al. Harnessing the nursing and midwifery workforce to boost Australia’s clinical research impact. Med J Aust. 2022;217(10):514-6.


Mr Jarrod Clarke is based in the Rosemary Bryant AO Research Centre, Clinical and Health Sciences, University of South Australia. Jarrod is also from the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s (ANMF) National Policy Research Unit (Federal Office).

Dr Kate Davis is a Research Fellow and OWL Program Manager at the Rosemary Bryant AO Research Centre, Clinical and Health Sciences, University of South Australia.

5 Responses

  1. Hi I would be interested in an online/interstate program please advise of any openings as such many thanks

  2. So if I’m in Qld I can’t to this program, if not do you know something similar in Qld

  3. I would be very interested in this program if it was made available online. I suspect many more regional nurses would also enjoy the opportunity to develop their careers in this way.

  4. I am interested in learning more about how I could become involved in OWL and would be grateful for any further information.

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