Existing stereotypes, as one may find in the picture above, and initial socialization unfortunately do not highlight the aspect of research in the nursing profession. In comparison to natural sciences such as chemistry and biology where research is greatly emphasized, there is a lower expectation in nursing education for faculty-student research mentorship (Speziale & Carpenter, 2002). Many undergraduates are not even aware that nurses do research. While it’s clear cut in other disciplines, many times they cannot imagine what would be a topic of nursing research. It seems that this misconception about nursing and research has stemmed from incorrect communication of information to the public. However, this is rapidly changing now since increasing numbers of faculty and students collaboratively conduct research that advances nursing practice and impacts health care (Payne & Yenser, 2007).
Even though research is generally open to nurses with a Master's degree or doctorate, undergraduate students may also get involved with research by finding mentors who are faculty members. Active student participation in research projects promotes a dynamic educational environment that focuses on learning rather than on teaching (Porter & Mansour, 2003). As a successful example, two undergraduate students at the School of Nursing, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amanda Worcester and Jennifer Webb, became involved in research during their second year, juggling it with their busy schedules. They themselves admitted that they never suspected that they would soon "publish in a peer-reviewed nursing journal". They stressed three R’s in undergraduate nursing research – resources, relationships and rewards. The latter included things like building a more attractive application for graduate school as well as "confidence and pride in our abilities as student nurses and fledgling researchers" (Worcester & Webb, 2008, p.72) .
Here are a couple different reasons to do research - some do it just for fun!
The previous focus of the nursing profession was primarily clinical, but the role of nurses has evolved greatly (Kerlinger, 1986). Scientific inquiry, planned and conducted by nurses, is vital to healthcare. According to Rose and collegues, since nursing grounds its practice on a holistic belief system that nurses care for the mind, body and the spirit of the patient, nurse scientists have the opportunity and responsibility of developing knowledge not only about the biomedical aspects of diseases but also about the relationship of humans to their environments, families and cultures. Nursing research improves quality management of patients during long term illnesses and assists in developing advancements that aid patients in recovery, such as studying ways that help reduce disease in the community, promote healthy lifestyles and prevent the onset of preventable diseases and illnesses (Rose, Beeby & Parker, 1995).
Although one of the goals of nursing research is improving the immediate physical, emotional and spiritual conditions for the patients, other goals relate to nurses themselves. Speziale and Carpenter (2002) point out that not only direct clinical experiences but also nurses’ attitudes, their empathetic awareness, and their emotional responses – things that previously have been left out of research – continue to help patients recover better. Also ongoing studies examine professional nurse behavior and work satisfaction, successful leadership strategies, and perspectives on nurse empowerment and how it affects both the healthcare team and the patient (Speziale & Carpenter, 2002). There are many fields in nursing practice that can be improved, and the best way to do so is through research and further implementation of findings.
It is up to the individual to take the first step and take their education and specialization to a new level. There are many organizations and institutions that provide support for nurses who pursue their passion for bettering the healthcare through research. One of the most prominent is the National Institute of Nursing Research. Patricia A. Grady, RN, PhD, FAAN and director of the NINR, gave a convincing reason to do research (2007):
"Research is the best way to create better patient care. It ties you to something bigger and provides a basis for other people to learn from. Nurses should think about research as an investment in the future. Developing evidence-based practice is an important way to get your ideas implemented, improve the health of the American people, and move the profession forward in the 21st century."
The diagram above is a great starting point in getting to know the process of research. It shows the whole way from forming a question to end results and implications.
Kerlinger, F.N. (1986). Foundations of behavioral research, 3rd edition. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.
Munhall, P.L. (2001) Nursing Research. London: NLN Press.
Payne, J. & Yenser, S. (2007) Use of General Clinical Research Centers for Nursing Research. Biological Research For Nursing, 9(2), 142-146.
Porter, E. & Mansour, M. (2003) Teaching nursing research to undergraduates: A text analysis of instructors' intentions. Research in Nursing & Health, 26(2), 128-142.
Rose, Beeby, & Parker. (1995). New Qualitative Methodologies in Health and Social Care Research. New York: Routledge.
Spader, C. (2007). Nursing Research Sets Patient Care Standards. Retrieved February 29, 2008 from Nurse.com. Website: http://include.nurse.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070924/NATIONAL01/309240015/-1/frontpage
Speziale, H., Carpenter, D. (2002). Qualitative Research in Nursing. Advancing the Humanistic perspective. New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Worcester, A. & Webb, J. (2008). The 3 Rs of Undergraduate Nursing Research. American Journal of Nursing, 108(2), 72AAA–72BBB.