Evidence-based practice scientist Laura Cullen, DNP, RN, FAAN, recognized with a DAISY Lifetime Achievement Award

Lauren Cullen DAISY Award
For her contributions to nursing, Cullen was recently recognized with a DAISY Lifetime Achievement Award.

Pioneer. Researcher. Practitioner.

Laura Cullen, DNP, RN, FAAN, an evidence-based practice (EBP) scientist, has spent nearly 38 years advocating for patients and her fellow nurses.

Cullen is recognized by the global nursing community for her pioneering research and publications on EBP, the process of applying clinical findings to patient care and clinical decision-making.

She is co-author of the “Iowa Model,” co-creator of “Iowa Implementation for Sustainability Framework,” and first author of “Evidence-Based Practice in Action” from University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, a 2018 American Journal of Nursing book of the year.

“I think my primary contribution is EBP—for our organization and the larger health care community—is to have focused on making implementation science actionable so that clinicians can lead effective practice change,” says Cullen, who works in the Office of Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice for UI Hospitals & Clinics.

For her contributions to nursing, Cullen was recently recognized with a DAISY Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I’ve had the privilege to work with Mark and Bonnie Barnes, the founders of the DAISY Foundation,” she says. “Because I know them personally, this recognition has extra meaning to me. I’ve been able to volunteer, to support their mission of recognizing nurses with small grants for both research and EBP that are nurse-led, recognizing the role of frontline nurses.”

Finding her way to nursing

Cullen says her path to nursing wasn’t exactly traditional. In fact, when she applied to college, she remembers the blank on the application form asking for her major.

“I didn’t know what to write,” says Cullen. “My mother said, ‘I always thought you’d be the nurse in the family.’ So, I wrote the word nursing on the form and decided to learn more. Then, I discovered I loved the interactions with patients.”

Cullen began working in nursing homes as a nursing assistant (NA). As she pursued her bachelor’s degree, she worked as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) at UI Hospitals & Clinics to pay her way through school.

When Cullen was in graduate school, much of the focus was on theoretical concepts for practice. However, she has noted a shift across the years as nursing has evolved and become more science based.

“I’ve been intrigued to see how this science has developed and grown. I’ve always been much more interested in that sweet spot of tension for change and the reality of clinical practice,” she says.

Empowering nurses, valuing the team

Cullen says UI Hospitals & Clinics is a welcoming place for nurses. It’s a place where nurses can ask questions: Why do we do it this way? How could we do it better? And it’s a place where they can seek solutions.

Previous nursing leaders paved the way through mentorship and recognizing the value of nursing, says Cullen. And she’s honored to pay it forward by advocating for nurses and patients.

“We have a tradition of authority over our practice,” she says. “Nurses here are empowered and have autonomy. We can evaluate and measure that impact and demonstrate that nursing led practice improvements actually make a difference that counts for patients and the organization.”

Cullen says it takes a strong, cohesive team to effect change.

“We’ve got a phenomenal team and we value the different perspectives that each of our team members brings,” she says. “We’re comfortable working through disagreements, debating high-level concepts, and the messy process for figuring out solutions. I still learn from the clinical teams I get to work with.”

As she looks back over her career, Cullen has enjoyed witnessing team members grow in their roles.

“I’ve seen staff nurses elevated to giving international presentations, publishing, and teaching so that others benefit from learning from them,” she says. “That’s been both my greatest joy and strongest commitment.”