Research helps nurses determine effective best practices and improve patient care. Nurses in an online RN to BSN program learn to retrieve, read, critique and apply nursing research. Because new information is always coming to light, it is crucial that BSN-prepared nurses know the importance of research. The findings from peer-reviewed studies can correct old misunderstandings, pave the way for new treatment protocols and create new methodology — all of which improve patient outcomes.
Research also helps nursing respond to changes in the healthcare environment, patient populations and government regulations. As researchers make discoveries, the practice of nursing continues to change. The information students learn can become quickly outdated, so being able to keep up with new developments in nursing helps graduates in their careers.
Every nurse can benefit from knowing why nursing research is important, how research is conducted and how research informs patient care. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs teach nurses to appreciate and use research in their everyday careers, compare findings and read published research.
Information literacy is not the same as the ability to read, use the computer effectively or use search engines. This skill goes beyond comprehending the basics of finding resources. Understanding information transforms it from knowledge you have into knowledge you can actually use. As a nurse, you need knowledge that makes a difference in your practice and helps you stay current in your field.
Nurses learning to effectively process and use information from published research can improve their information literacy. Simply reading study results is of little help if you do not comprehend what you read. Nursing schools teach nurses how to interpret data, compare different studies, process information, critique results and think critically. Information literacy empowers nurses to use research in their careers so they can make meaningful clinical decisions.
BSN programs teach nurses to refer to research in response to problems and questions. To this end, many nursing schools collaborate with research librarians to help students become more competent at using information. Problem-based learning allows students to use available information resources when they experience clinical challenges. Practicing these skills in an academic environment prepares nurses to use information resources in their own clinical practice.
Evidence-based practice requires using research outcomes to drive clinical decisions and care. Nurses must base their work on the results of research. Peer-reviewed, published data that is accepted by the nursing profession as a whole provides guidance and establishes best practices in the field. Following the evidence, wherever it leads, is key to evidence-based practice. Results must be free of bias, verifiable and reproducible under the same research conditions. The standards for good research are high because published research results are likely to substantially influence the practice of nursing.
When you evaluate published research, consider these four important areas:
- Validity: Is the study legitimate, sound and accurate?
- Reliability: Is the measurement’s result consistent?
- Relevance: Is there a logical connection between two occurrences, concepts or tasks?
- Outcome: What conclusions did the researchers reach?
Not every study may be meaningful for your patient, question, topic or concern. You need to carefully evaluate every research paper you consider — look for weaknesses, inconsistencies, biases and other problems. Evidence-based practice requires you to become proficient at performing these evaluations and reaching your own conclusions about the information you use.
Research used in evidence-based practice can be quantitative, qualitative or both. From there, these two types can be divided into multiple categories. Understanding how nursing research can be categorized can help you understand and interpret research results.
- Quantitative research: Numbers, percentages and variables are used to communicate results.
- Qualitative research: Findings take the form of thoughts, perceptions and experiences.
Three Types of Quantitative Research:
- Descriptive research expresses the characteristics or traits of a specific group, situation or individual. This type of research looks for new conclusions and connections that can be made based on observed traits.
- Quasi-experimental research looks at cause-and-effect relationships between different variables.
- Correlational research considers the relationships among variables, but does not draw a cause-and-effect relationship.
Five Types of Qualitative Research:
- Ethnography observes or provides analysis about cultural and social customs and practices and how particular cultures understand disease and health.
- Grounded theory is all about building theories in response to questions, problems and observations.
- Symbolic interactionism studies personal interaction, communication patterns, interpretations and reactions. These factors can influence how people change their health practices over time.
- Historical research systematically reviews a topic, culture or group and the subject’s history.
- Phenomenology uses personal experiences and insights to inform the author’s conclusion.
No particular type of research is necessarily better than the others, but each type has certain uses and limitations. It is important for nurses to know the different types of research and how to use them.
Nurses need research because it helps them advance their field, stay updated and offer better patient care. Information literacy skills can help nurses use information more effectively to develop their own conclusions. Evidence-based practice is important for nurses. Nurses need to understand, evaluate and use research in their careers. Nursing schools teach these skills to help nurses advance in their careers.
Learn more about Northeastern State’s online RN to BSN program.
The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing: Information Resources: Information Literacy: The Benefits of Partnership
Wolters Kluwer Health: Evidence-Based Practice Network
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Think “scientific research” and one may imagine doctors, Ph.D.s or technicians toiling away in the lab. But many people don’t realize that nurses do research too.
Laura Perry, communications director for the UCLA School of Nursing, and Amy Albin, senior media representative for the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, spoke with Karen Grimley, chief nursing executive at UCLA Health and assistant dean in the nursing school, about why the concept of nurses as researchers may be surprising to some, although the work they do is vital to improving the health and well-being of patients.
The discussion coincided with the 15th annual Research and Evidence-based Practice Conference being hosted today and Wednesday on campus by the UCLA Health Nursing Practice Research Council and the UCLA School of Nursing. Geared toward clinicians, researchers and educators, the popular conference is designed to showcase ways to improve patient outcomes through science-based best practices and to provide opportunities for professional networking and education.
What is the history of nurses as researchers?
It started with the mother of nursing — Florence Nightingale. She was a renaissance woman as it related to health care in the 1850s. Her work was all-encompassing and based in research. She measured illness and infection rates among wounded soldiers in the Crimean War and used those results to petition the British government to improve conditions, first, for the soldiers and then for public health in all of England. Her book, “Notes on Nursing,” tells where and how the research was birthed.
What gets you excited about nursing research?
The excitement and passion for me is when someone has that “aha” moment. Maybe they don’t think it’s one at first, but when you discuss the idea, it grows into a thesis statement, and then it’s a question they want to solve. Research creates a very synergistic, dynamic environment where you are forever promoting care, health and wellness.
What barriers or obstacles still face nurse researchers?
It's us. Nurses have great ideas and see things at the bedside that need research. But most of the time we don’t perceive ourselves as scientists and that we have the ability to bring their ideas to our internal groups — like the Nursing Research Practice Council or someone at the School of Nursing.
Nursing leadership needs to be cultivating that understanding with the nurse at the bedside or in the clinic and help those nurses take an idea and grow it into a research project. We need to mentor and coach those nurses, and that is a big priority for me in the upcoming year.
Evidence-based nursing research is a rapidly growing field. Why now?
Evidence-based nursing research has taken off over the past few years because there is a groundswell of interest by communities and the government as it relates to care of patient populations. That’s where nursing spends its time. Nursing is focused on caring for people. And with the Affordable Care Act, we are now very focused on prevention. That’s nursing’s wheelhouse.
What topics are nurses researching?
The way nurses are involved in research is two-fold. Pure nursing research looks at practice and ways to improve nursing activities, interventions or approaches to education that enhance professional practice. Examples of this could be looking at hospital-acquired infections, central line infections or pressure ulcers that patients get when lying down for long periods of time.
The other type of research is using their expertise as a nurse and participating with an intra-professional group of people around a patient population, an illness or an injury. An example of this is studying the way that a team works together to resuscitate a patient during a code blue [emergency].
How does nursing research benefit patients and the health care field?
Research can help reduce the length of stay in hospitals and costs as well as improve patient outcomes. It also helps maintain normalcy for the patient. For example, for patients experiencing delirium, nursing research led to a survey tool to assess patients and inform our practice. Another study looked at ways we can help improve sleep in the hospital because sleep is restorative.
The UCLA School of Nursing has a strong research foundation. How you are collaborating with UCLA Health?
We want to bring the strengths of both the School of Nursing and UCLA Health together and promote nursing. We want to bring ideas from the medical center and work with the academic side to help us design research projects that will ultimately promote better care. We also want to get nurse-practitioner students into clinics across UCLA Health. We have over 160 clinics that could really benefit from understanding the role that NPs play in their practice.
What is the future of nursing research?
There are hip, trendy things going on across health care, and we should be leading that. We need to find ways to partner with the people we care for and the people who care with us, whether it be at the bedside, in the clinic or in the community. If we stay true to our roots, nursing’s role is to advocate for our patients, especially vulnerable populations and people who cannot speak for themselves. It centers on ensuring that care is coordinated. We should be using the knowledge of our environment and the people we serve for our research ideas.