Poster madness: MNRS conference gives nursing students opportunity to present to nurse researchers

The bulletin boards were lined up in long rows. On each hung a poster, secured by a quartet of pushpins and laden with text, infographics and university logos. Laurel Marek stood by hers, as did hundreds of other students, ready to answer questions from the curious passersby who roamed the convention center halls. 

“I got to meet nurses from across the country and get exposure to a ton of other peoples’ research,” Marek says. 

Eight College of Nursing students displayed their projects at the 2024 Midwest Nursing Research Society Conference in Minneapolis. The college sends research-active students — from undergraduates to doctoral candidates — to the conference each year, hoping they can learn from others while gaining their own valuable presentation experience. 

Dr. Virginia Riggs attended the conference to present her research on how psychiatric-mental health nursing students’ confidence is impacted by different kinds of instructional delivery. Prior to the conference, Marquette faculty members walked Riggs through the elements of a good poster: include lots of visual aids, make sure it’s readable from at least six feet away and distill the information to its essence, which can be challenging when it’s coming from a dissertation. Still, Riggs believes it’s necessary to learn how to communicate her research concisely. 

“The last crucial component of research is dissemination of the findings,” Riggs says. “In many disciplines, including nursing, there are conferences like MNRS that provide a really good platform for it.” 

Marek, Riggs and Lisa Grabert represented the doctoral program in Marquette’s group; Katie Baeza and Cherise Edwards represented the master’s program; and Cecilia Oettinger, Sophia Lynch and Geraldine Ruiz were there from the bachelor’s program. 

Many credit their research advisers with helping them navigate the tricky process of preparing for the conference. Baeza works with Dr. Kim Whitmore, assistant professor of nursing, to develop a toolkit to prevent caregiver burnout. 

“I didn’t think I enjoyed research at first, but then I applied to be a research assistant here with Dr. Whitmore and now I’m hooked,” Baeza says. “I’ve considered getting a Ph.D. once I’m done with my nurse practitioner degree, which is not something I ever would have anticipated.” 

“It’s really fun to get to talk about the nuances of research with people who are also doing it,” Riggs added, noting how helpful it was to have Dean Dr. Jill Guttormson, Interim Assistant Dean of Graduate Programs Dr. Karen Robinson, and Interim Associate Dean for Research Dr. Marilyn Frenn in attendance. “It was wonderful, and they were all great company.” 

Networking isn’t the only benefit to attendees. For those who are preparing their doctoral defense, it serves as valuable practice. Marek is planning to defend her dissertation in 2026 and thinks dealing with random questions helped her prepare. During her day on the floor, Marek handled queries about everything from how she obtained her samples to her method of data analysis. 

“It helped me big-time in formulating some of the questions related to my dissertation research and showed me that I needed to focus a little bit more on a specific population,” Marek says. “I also met a lot of people who were a lot further in their dissertation than I am so it was useful to get their ideas.” 

When students had time away from their own posters, they meandered through the aisles and found inspiration in others’ displays. Riggs, who is also interested in nurse burnout and bereavement, saw posters at the event that might inform future research projects. She also found each day’s keynote addresses to be particularly valuable, as accomplished nursing researchers explained their scholarship. 

Riggs says if she could go back in time, she would’ve come to MNRS before beginning her research project. 

“There are a lot of challenges that come up in the course of research, which you couldn’t have anticipated prior to starting your project, so hearing from people who are also going through the process would have been valuable before diving in myself,” Riggs says. 

Students interested in attending MNRS should connect with their research advisers. Read more about MNRS here.