Nurses play a growing role in research

Although nurses are known for their work as caregivers, educators and hospital unit administrators, the role they play in research is often not recognized, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

For example, at Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Nursing, Associate Professor Angela Starkweather is the lead investigator of a three-year study on low-back pain funded by a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. She decided to move away from the patient's bedside to become a scientist-researcher after hearing her patients continue to complain of pain after extensive surgeries. 

"It drove me crazy because we are doing everything we can; why are they still having [pain]?" Starkweather told the Times-Dispatch. "I saw so much variation in patient outcomes, particularly regarding post-surgical pain and response to pain treatments."

Registered nurses, with backgrounds in both health sciences and frontline healthcare, are prime candidates to identify and research issues in patient care, according to Patricia A. Grady, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Nursing Research.

"As the largest group of clinical practitioners in the U.S. healthcare workforce, nurses are uniquely positioned to make important contributions to improving health and quality of life," Grady told the newspaper in an email. "Unlike their counterparts in other fields of the health sciences, nurse scientists focus more closely on person-centered prevention, treatment and coping interventions, rather than developing pharmacological treatments for specific diseases."

Many nursing institutions want to get more nurses involved in research, according to the article. For example, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Nurse Faculty Scholars initiative aims to "launch the careers of academic nurses in terms of actually providing research support and also salary support as well as leadership training," said Jacquelyn Campbell, national director of the Nurse Faculty Scholars program and a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. Thirty-six scholars are currently enrolled in the program, according to the article.

To learn more:
- read the article