nurse in lab

How Nurses Can Advance Medical Research

Nurse leadership and educational roles can be as important to advancing research as they are to the daily operations of clinics. In hospitals and universities, nurse leaders and educators have a long history of both supporting and directing research. The research that has been undertaken by nurses who have obtained a Master of Science in Nursing degree typically falls into two categories: clinical and academic research. While clinical research may include anything from the practice of medicine to the management of hospital operations, academic research is the domain of nurse educators, wherein they develop new curricula and instructional techniques. Regardless of the realm in which nurse leaders work, their contributions to research can make a profound difference in the lives of patients, students, and the medical field as a whole.

Nurse Leaders Advancing Clinical Research

A major part of caregiving involves implementing and refining evidence-based practices—in which nurse leaders play an important role as overseers. First, nurse leaders have a responsibility to actively review the latest literature and research; this helps ensure their own knowledge is sufficient to provide relevant guidance to their staff. Second, nurse leaders can help bridge the gap between practicing nurses and the world of research and academia. By adding context and training in how to access, interpret and utilize the latest medical literature, these nurses advance clinical research on the ground level.

Without support from nurse leaders, a void between research and practice can delay the implementation of new evidence and improved clinical standards where they are needed most. It is one thing for hospital administrators to tell staff that a new practice is important; it is another to have nurse leaders provide background, role modeling, and guidance as to why a change is important and how the team will take advantage of this new knowledge. By taking an active role in the consumption and dissemination of research, nurse leaders help to keep their staff on the cutting edge of medical development, as well as provide benefits to patients who receive more advanced care as a result of evidence-backed innovations.

Peer review is also an important part of any academic research, and nurse leaders can take the principles of review a step further. When nurse leaders put the latest research and evidence into practice in hospitals and clinics, it provides an opportunity for critical analysis and feedback to further refine and develop new medical standards. By creating an active dialogue with their teams about the latest medical literature, nurse leaders can provide meaningful feedback about obstacles caregivers face in interpreting and implementing new caregiving techniques.

Nurse leaders can also solicit patient feedback to make their own original contributions to the ongoing development of best practices. For instance, compared to physicians or other specialists, nurses historically spend more time at the bedside, engaging in direct patient care and establishing personal relationships with patients. Nurse leaders can leverage this engagement to convey how changing care techniques and clinical standards impact patient satisfaction, or even patient compliance with care plans.

Finally, nurse leaders maintain a close relationship with staff on the frontlines of caregiving. This insight can give nurse leaders an important voice with which to guide new clinical research. Nurse leaders can represent their staff—as well as their unique clinical challenges—to help clinical research better reflect the modern realities of caregiving and medicine. In this way, nurse leaders can ensure that clinical research is accurate and relevant to their staff and their organizations.

Nurses Leading Educational Research

Just as clinical medicine is constantly evolving, nursing education requires regular innovation to better prepare students for the rigors of the medical field. Nurse educators act as leaders in researching new ways to instruct nursing students in the classroom, as well as new techniques for giving nurses hands-on experience in the caregiving setting.

Educational research is the area in which nurse leaders can make the greatest original contributions, as they are endlessly developing, testing and improving their lesson plans and teaching strategies. Sometimes, nurse educators must respond to new technology by pioneering new ways of teaching; the development and implementation of Electronic Health Records, for example, created a huge need for nurse educators fluent in their use and capable of teaching others how to make use of the new digital systems. Nurse educators must understand the needs these new technologies create in clinical environments and quickly convert this understanding to classroom leadership that helps nursing students develop a strong foundation in principles of adaptive learning.

Helping nursing students successfully transition from the classroom to the clinic requires extensive, continuous research by nurse educators. Like nurse leaders, they must keep abreast of changing standards informed by evidence-based care; nurse educators must remain engaged with clinical research, and then conduct their own research to find the most effective ways to present caregiving techniques. As much as the success of evidence-based medicine depends on nurse leaders driving implementation, it also depends on nurse educators preparing students to learn on the job and adapt to new discoveries.

Full-Time Research Nurses

While active participation in research activities is a key part of both nurse leadership and nurse educator roles, there are growing opportunities for Master of Science in Nursing graduates to engage in research full time. This may be largely pedagogical research, helping find new ways to maximize the impact of nurse educators; it may also mean doing more clinical research or taking a lead role on the preparation, execution and assessment of an original research project.

Utilizing their practical experience and background, nurse leaders can benefit medical research – from growing the body of medical and clinical knowledge to redesigning classrooms and learning materials. There are multiple opportunities for nurse-led research in the clinical and academic settings, all of which can enable better patient-centered care and effectively train nurses and nursing students for advancement in the field.

Learn More

Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.

Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program helps students hone their knowledge and skills to assume positions in nursing informatics, healthcare systems leadership or nursing education. The program aims to develop students who could take a role in shaping health policy, in educating other nurses and health care professionals, and in providing advanced care to their patients. Norwich’s online nursing program coursework has been developed based on guidelines by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.


The Importance of Nursing Research, Journal of Nursing Education

Resources, American Nurses Association

Nursing, research, and the evidence, Evidence-Based Nursing

The role of the research nurse, Nursing Times

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