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All in the details: Nurse researchers work to solve problems plaguing patients and the profession

Thursday January 23, 2014
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Want to eliminate cancer, falls or errors? Join the ranks of nurse researchers working to solve these and other problems patients and nurses face. Research, nurses say, aims to advance the overall goal of the profession — better patient care.

“Nurses need to provide good bedside care, but now there is a cohort of nurses advancing health and discovering cures for what ails our patients,” said Courtney H. Lyder, ND, ScD(Hon), FAAN, professor and dean of the UCLA School of Nursing in Los Angeles and a member of the National Advisory Council for Nursing Research.

What’s your passion?

Lyder, who is determined to find ways to prevent pressure ulcers and detect early signs of ulcers through his own research, said nurse researchers need an inquisitive mind and a perceivable goal. Find a burning clinical question you have in practice and “then you will be motivated to solve the problem,” he said.

Organizational skills and the ability to work across disciplines are needed for a career in research, nurses say. Have something you’re dedicated to researching, spend time investigating it and share the results with others, said Carol S. Brewer, RN, PhD, FAAN, professor and associate dean for Academic Affairs at the University at Buffalo (N.Y.) School of Nursing and co-lead of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded RN Work Project.

Nurse researchers also need good communication and people skills and a willingness to collaborate with others, said Renee Twibell, RN, PhD, a nurse researcher at a Midwest healthcare system, whose personal research goals include improving patient care and safety by preventing pneumonia and falls. “Nursing research is hard for a soloist,” she added. “You have to work with a team.”

Breaking in

Nurses also would benefit from finding an established researcher to shadow or who can lead, at least initially. “Find out who is doing the best work [in nursing research] in your area and see if you can get them on board as a mentor,” said Patricia A. Grady, RN, PhD, FAAN, director of the National Institute of Nursing Research. “A good mentor will help you define your research goals, and then support you in your quest to achieve them. He or she will share knowledge, provide encouragement and hopefully inspire you.”

Twibell added that nurses should be willing to present at conferences and publish articles about their research. Publishing in peer-reviewed journals provides evidence of solid research methods and analysis and an ability to write in a way that is acceptable for publication, added Nancy M. Albert, RN, PhD, CCNS, CHFN, CCRN, NE-BC, FAHA, FCCM, director of nursing research at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
Training opportunities that can help nurses get started include NINR’s online course “Developing Nurse Scientists.”

Avoiding pitfalls

Brewer suggests nurses consider a research topic that grant-making entities are interested in funding. Nurses also can collaborate with funded researchers and complete a small piece of the study. “Start small and build,” Brewer said.

Albert said another pitfall is not carrying out the project correctly or not properly disseminating the research results, which wastes time and leaves questions unanswered. Since research takes time to do it right, realistic time lines and budget planning are critical, she said.

Professional and personal distractions, competing commitments, waiting too long after you receive your RN license to pursue a research career, and feeling that seeking a PhD would be too difficult also present challenges. “As a nurse scientist, you’ll never run out of ideas to investigate and areas to explore,” Grady said. “More importantly, you can make an impact on the health of individuals, families and communities.”

To see what else is trending in advanced education, visit www.Nurse.com/Advanced-Education.

Research on research

National Institute of Nursing Research
www.NINR.NIH.gov
The site offers training opportunities, news on ongoing research and more to budding and established researchers.

“How to ... prepare a poster presentation for nurses”
www.Nurse.com/Article/Poster-Presentations

“Nurse writers offer tips on how to write for publication”
www.Nurse.com/Article/Nurse-Writers

Take our CE module “Research in the Clinical Setting”
www.CE.Nurse.com/Course/60140
2 contact hours



Debra Anscombe Wood, RN, is a freelance writer. Post a comment below or email specialty@Nurse.com.