What Types of Research Should Nurses Be Doing?

As evidence-based practice in nursing becomes the standard, the need for nurse researchers to design studies, analyze data and report results becomes more important. Driving the vision for nursing research is the nursing profession’s mandate to society to improve the health and well-being of populations, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

Bachelor degree programs give nurses a basic understanding of research processes. For working nurses, an online RN to BSN program can introduce the principles of scientific inquiry, including how to identify methods of analytical thinking commonly used in nurse problem-solving. Nurses interested in research can then go on to earn an advanced degree, which is generally required for nurse researchers.

The Nursing Viewpoint

“Nurse researchers bring a holistic perspective to studying individuals, families, and communities,” according to the AACN. “The priorities for nursing research reflect nursing’s commitment to the promotion of health and healthy lifestyles, the advancement of quality and excellence in health care, and the critical importance of basing professional nursing practice on research.”

Research as a way to develop the scientific foundation for clinical nursing practice is also the perspective of the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR). The institute says that research in nursing develops knowledge to prevent disease and disability, manage and eliminate symptoms caused by illness, and enrich end-of-life and palliative care.

Nurses generally interact more with patients than other healthcare professionals. Close patient contact means that nurses see the scientific and medical outcomes of treatments and also the effects of treatment on the patient’s quality of life and behavior. This viewpoint gives research nurses insights that other researchers may miss.

Research Priorities

The 2016 NINR five-year strategic plan lists five priority areas for nursing research:

  • Enhance health promotion and disease prevention.
  • Improve quality of life by managing symptoms of acute and chronic illness.
  • Improve palliative and end-of-life care.
  • Enhance innovation in science and practice.
  • Develop the next generation of nurse scientists.

To support those priorities, the plan outlines four key research themes:

  • Symptom science: promoting personalized health strategies. This research includes developing models for preventive care. It also includes behavioral interventions to reduce health risks for individuals, communities and populations.
  • Wellness: promoting health and preventing illness. This research determines how behaviors, the environment, the individual and lifestyle affect illness. Researchers can then develop evidence-based interventions to promote wellness.
  • Self-management: patients managing their own care. Nurses teach patients to manage chronic illness between doctor visits. This includes teaching emotional and lifestyle skills.
  • End-of-life and palliative care: the science of compassion. This research looks at the processes involved in palliative care efforts and develops effective strategies to improve care for all patients.

The NINR states that its nursing research plan “seeks to harness the strengths of nursing science to power an ambitious research agenda that will meet current and future health care needs and anticipate future health challenges and priorities.” Nurses ready to take on this challenge can help shape the future of healthcare.

Learn more about the URI RN to BS in Nursing program.


National Institute of Nursing Research

AACN: Nursing Research

National Institute of Nursing Research: Promoting America’s Health Through Nursing Science

Nature.com: Nursing research: Nurses Know Best

Advance Healthcare Network: Understanding Nursing Research

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