Spotlight with Professor Violeta Lopez, RN, BSN, MNA, MPET, JBICF, PhD, FACN

Nursing is a profession that takes pride in applying research into practice. Every nursing action has a theoretical and research base that proves its effectiveness and rationale. 

Nurses find the answer to the why and the how of every nursing intervention because of the vast body of knowledge that is available for academic and clinical consumption.

Professor Violeta Lopez is not a stranger when it comes to nursing research. In fact, her professional career that is devoted to the administrative and research aspect of nursing has transpired for 45 years.


Photo courtesy of ISNCC
Before acquiring her administrative position as Director of Research in the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies in the National University of Singapore, Dr. Lopez has shared her leadership skills and gained administrative competence through the following professional merits: started her teaching career in 1988 at the University of Sydney and in 1997 to 2005 at the Chinese University of Hongkong. in 2005-2008, she has been the Head of the School of Nursing at the Australian Catholic University. In the year 2009-2013, she was appointed as Professor at the Australian National University in Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory Health Directorate Director of the  Research Centre for Nursing and Midwifery (An ICN-Accredited Centre for Nursing Practice: Research and Development); and in 2011-2013, she was also appointed as Director of the Australian Capital Regional Centre for Evidence-Based Nursing and Midwifery.

She has also worked with the United States Aid for International Development, Australian Aid for International Development, WHO Collaborating Centre for Primary Health Care, and completed two international projects for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. She has been invited as a consultant in curriculum development and implementation of evidence-based practice by a number of institutions in Oman, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Pakistan, and Jordan.

As a researcher for the last 45 years, Dr. Lopez’s research interests include transcultural nursing, the development, translation and psychometric evaluation of research instruments, cancer symptom management, care giving, and psycho-educational interventions.  She has published 120 journal articles, books and book chapters. She is also a peer reviewer of 18 medical and nursing refereed journals that are known internationally. She is an international editorial board member of the following journals and publications: International Editorial Board of Research in Nursing and Health, European Journal of Health, Journal of Health, Exercise and Recreation, Advances in Nursing, Nursing Practice Today, and is an Associate Editor of European Journal of Oncology Nursing.These research achievements prompted her to be invited as a keynote or plenary speaker in a number of internal conferences. It is also important to note that she has obtained over $2 million research grant and worked closely with multidisciplinary research teams.

Let us take a glimpse on her life as the Director of Research in ALCNS and read her stand on how evidence-based practice is a must in contemporary nursing.

In your first year and a half of being the Director of Research in the Alice Lee Center for Nursing Studies (ALCNS), what achievements are you most proud of?

During my year and a half as research director at ALCNS, I am proud of two important appointments. First is being appointed as one of the panel members of National University Health System Research Director (NUHS-RD). This has been set up as an advisory body and working group and plays a pivotal role as a conduit between the NUHS Research Leadership, the School of Medicine Dean’s office, and ALCNS to discuss research matters pertaining to NUHS. My specific role is to act as the “Research Ambassador” for ALCNS, a resource person, a mentor for novice research staff, and an evaluator of department’s research output.
Second, is being appointed as a member of the SingHealth Nursing Research Working Committee and initiate and encourage collaborative nursing research work in the areas of common interest, facilitate nursing projects, train and educate clinical nurse researchers and make recommendations on strategic directions for SingHealth nursing research.
I am proud to be involved in training novice researchers and nurse scientists at varying stages of their careers, and hopefully help sustain the foundation for excellence in nursing practice. The development of a strong cadre of nurse investigators has been my primary aim in being the Director of Research. Since ALCNS is only in its 10th year of development, a number of current staffs are still pursuing their doctoral education on a part time basis while being involved in a full-time teaching load. This creates a long-term effect in their professional development and promotion for ensuring a tenured position at the university level. They need continuous support and encouragement which is essential for the growth of a scientific academic workforce.
I am also proud to establish the three programs of research at ALCNS as they provide a focus direction of research to be conducted by both staff and students. These research programs are in line with the research priorities of Singapore, the university and the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (that we are part of). The mission of the research programs is to promote the development of evidence-based nursing practice through four diverse areas including collaborative and multidisciplinary research, development of the mentoring process, and support towards competitive research grant applications.

What is ALCNS’ role in the rapidly changing Singaporean healthcare industry?
The world is adapting to the emergence of an aging population and Singapore is also one of the Asian countries with a rapidly aging population with people aged 65 years and above who are projected to increase from 7.2% in 2000 to 19% by 2030. The aging population has a great implication for policy, economy and healthcare. With aging, health problems are also increasing. In Singapore, specifically, the main areas that need support are care of patients with cancer, heart failure, diabetes, and dementia. The Ministry of Health emphasizes the importance of health service research in seven strategic areas including chronic disease management, care transition, patient safety, public health, general health policy, medical and health professional education, and issues for aging population.

Alongside the aging population is the severe shortage of nurses. This is a major problem that the healthcare industry needs to grapple with in the midst of other challenges. This manpower shortage has led to global competition in terms of hiring nurses and nurses migrating to and from developing countries.

The two main roles of ALCNS are education and research. ALCNS is the only school of nursing in Singapore that offers a Bachelor of Nursing to undergraduate students. Singapore, like any other country in the world, is facing the shortage of nurses in the workforce. Although there are a number of institutions in Singapore that offers the Diploma in Nursing, an increasing number of nurses are now opting to upgrade their basic training to a degree level in nursing. This is also seen as a coping strategy of nurses in Singapore to set a standard that is in congruence with the educational requirements of other countries.

It is important for our students to maintain their highly competitive qualities so they can enter the Honours’ Program which will prepare them to conduct systematic reviews or clinical researches in any field or specialization of their interest. The school also offers a Masters degree in Advance Practice Nursing and two research focus programs – Master in Science in Nursing and Doctor of Philosophy. As Singapore is moving into a community/primary care health-centered curriculum, preparing nurses to be APNs is a top priority.

How are these changes affecting students, clinicians and researchers?
We all need to be mindful of the potential contributions that nurses can provide in order to meet these changes and we must continue to challenge ourselves and prepare our students to be more innovative and become competent clinicians in the future.

Students, clinicians and researchers need to bring a clear voice and vision for the future healthcare needs not only for the Singaporean population but also for the global health needs. Specifically, it became clear that inter-professional education and collaborative works are critical in directing, defining and advancing health promotion policies and processes that can facilitate access to care and the notion of shared responsibility.

Investing in nurses’ and midwives’ quality education must be acknowledged and must always be emphasized to answer the issues of shortage of nurses in the workforce. New models of care, preparation of nurse practitioners, and enrichment of transition to community and home care services and the implementation of evidence-based practices take time, experience and opportunities that can no longer be ignored. University education is not just about training. It is about promoting scholarship at all levels of nursing education. Clinicians need to work closely with other disciplines and not be an island to one self. As researchers should also work with other disciplines and take leadership roles in the field of scholarship. The students, clinicians and researchers have distinct roles to play but overall, the challenge is the collaboration process to achieve the same goal which is to create a comprehensive and quality research base in nursing that can serve as a guide for evidence-based practice in the clinical practice.