How My Work Makes a Difference - Part 6



Kim Hunter-Schaedle, PhD, Manager of Institutional Research at the Erikson Institute of Austen RiggsAusten Riggs held a blog competition among staff members where we asked them to write about the topic: “How My Work Makes a Difference.”  This is the last blog in the series written by Kim Hunter-Schaedle, PhD, Manager of Institutional Research.

My job is as Manager of Institutional Research. The clinical staff of the Austen Riggs Center comes to work every day to provide treatment and give hope to our patient community. Often their work will raise questions, which might turn into research ideas.  However, our busy clinical staff has limited time to pursue research, given their extensive and important clinical commitments.  

My job is to help keep alive the possibility of turning clinical experience into research ideas and research projects. Research on our clinical work can lead to better understanding of Riggs’ clinical work and improve outcomes as we identify and follow our best practices and change what doesn’t work so well.

To do my job I have had to revitalize and re-organize our research department, located in our garden-level (aka “basement”) office suite, become a guru of paperwork and master of the spreadsheet, go through old files (dead bugs a possibility), map out Riggs’ past and current research trajectory, post flyers, send emails, nudge people into attending lab meetings in their already-too-tight calendars, crunch data, get research conference posters made, design and kick-start EIDEA, a fledgling Riggs research grant program (limited funds only available – creativity required), supervise talented and enthusiastic interns, and learn - and do - something new every day.  

I have learned that it helps to have a seasoned research administrator’s ability to recognize budding research stars on the Riggs staff, and to be ready to do what is needed to help and encourage them. It’s important to know how to approach cautiously, but not be afraid to be pushy and persistent as needed. (Thick skin is a plus!). 

My role helps ensure that Riggs’ past and emerging research ideas don’t disappear into the aforementioned dusty files, but get nurtured, grow, and have an opportunity to lead to new, and possibly groundbreaking, clinical findings.

How My Work Makes a Difference - Part 5

How My Work Makes a Difference - Part 4

How My Work Makes a Difference - Part 3

How My Work Makes a Difference - Part 2

How My Work Makes a Difference - Part 1



Over many years, Riggs patients and staff at their best have modeled for me an extraordinary standard of inquiry, compassion, and humility in the face of profoundly challenging work. To my reading, this piece falls well short of that mark.

I read here a fundamental misunderstanding of the work and relationships shared among clinical staff members and patients at Riggs. The author states that clinical staff members come to work each day "to provide treatment and give hope to the patient community." In the community, I have participated in and witnessed powerful, interdependent, reciprocal flows of hope back and forth among members in all roles. One nurse's comment exemplifies this spirit to me. She told me that the only difference between patients and staff was that patients -- unlike staff -- tended to get better during their time at Riggs.

In my experience, the stance of that nurse, and of so many staff members like her, creates an environment in which true healing can become possible. I dearly hope that the radical humility,  compassion, and respect of that nurse, and of the best of her colleagues, will not be supplanted at Riggs by attitudes closer to those demonstrated here.