Nurses occupy an influential position in the field of medicine. They spend about 70% of their time at the bedside, working directly with patients and observing treatment outcomes firsthand.
They also field questions from curious patients. In many cases, patients feel more comfortable confiding in or asking nurses questions instead physicians. This relationship allows nurses to address patient concerns while providing quality care.
How can nurses feel more confident and authoritative in addressing patient needs? One answer: research.
Research in Action
Nursing research provides an opportunity for nurses to advance treatment techniques and improve patient outcomes. So, for example, one focus is on supporting the “evidence” equation of evidence-based care.
Research can also take the form of knowing how to oversee projects or interpreting cutting-edge research, which professionals can then apply directly to patient care. Ultimately, strong research skills contribute to nurses’ ability to impact the current and future state of healthcare.
Research’s Role in Improving Medicine
Developing solid research know-how impacts the types of treatment patients receive. Nurses witness which existing techniques and treatments are working (or aren’t working) for patients through direct contact, so they are perfectly positioned to report research findings that involve patients. As a result, research can provide more accurate tools and chances to advance the nursing field.
For example, Florence Nightingale, known as the “Mother of Nursing,” applied research to determine that sanitation improved the survival rates of wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Her findings still influence how medicine is practiced today.
Nurse research strives to progress treatment protocols for a broad spectrum of patients. Research projects can harness ever-changing technology to better support the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Discoveries made through research can be relayed to other nurses throughout the health system, allowing everyone to be better patient advocates and deliver the best care possible.
Personal and Professional Impact
Nursing research benefits patients, but it can also provide more career opportunities for those who are not content with day-to-day clinical practice – many report that a research position is less physically and mentally demanding than bedside care. Nurses who do research often like the field’s more “structured” atmosphere.
From a personal-plus-professional perspective, research is an excellent option for nurses who want to significantly impact the nursing profession. Research can support widescale policy changes that help improve patient care on a micro and macro level. Nurse administrators and educators can uncover and disseminate advancements that promote evidence-based care.
Nurse researchers also serve as leaders and mentors, especially for members of their research team. As experts, they have skills that garner respect from students, peers and other departments. Their involvement in research sets them up for careers in academia, government and publishing. Nurse researchers are welcome additions to committees and boards, having earned professional prestige through their work.
How Can You Expand Your Research Skills?
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs help nurses hit the ground running in entry-level positions. However, BSN programs usually have limited coursework dedicated to nursing research. Master’s programs help nurses develop the important and influential skill of conducting nursing research and gaining data insights. Nurses learn to evaluate findings and implement new practice guidelines based on study results.
The University of Texas at Arlington offers online classes as part of the MSN Nursing Administration degree program with the goal of fostering necessary skills for nurse researchers. For example, the Principles of Research in Nursing course addresses how research generates evidence for nursing practice. Another course, Evidence-Based Practice, covers how to implement changes discovered from nursing research.
The Future Is Yours
An advanced degree is the first step to a career in nursing research, whether within academic medical centers, government agencies or other healthcare settings. As medical science continues to evolve, nurse researchers will increasingly be valuable assets to the development of the field.