Nurses provide direct care to their patients, and they should know which approaches work best for the best patient outcomes and which of the approaches they take need to be adjusted. Medicine, and in particular nursing, is always changing, and nurses need to keep learning and reskilling to keep up. Questioning standard procedures and finding new ways to improve them are crucial traits in nursing. Nursing research is at the heart of addressing this.
Understanding Nursing Research
Nursing research is concerned with helping nurses acquire a body of knowledge that they then use to advance nursing practice for better patient outcomes. In many cases, nursing research is also concerned with improving the welfare of nurses. This is because we know nurses who find joy in their work with little pressure and fewer stresses produce better outcomes.
Such scientific inquiries can also be used to contribute to health policies that impact national and global healthcare. This means that the research they do can have impact years and even decades down the line.
As patient expectations and needs change, nurses are also increasingly being called upon to use evidence-based care that mixes the findings of research done in the field with patient needs and preferences as well as the nurses’ professional experience.
Nurses are called upon to conduct research on their own or under an institutional umbrella, use their research and that done by others in their practice, and use the existing and emerging research to train other nurses.
Where Nursing Research Is Used
While nurses are encouraged to use their research skills to improve healthcare, enhance nursing education, influence policy, and effect positive outcomes, there are specific areas where this research is used.
First, nursing research is critical in the prevention of disease and disability. Some areas of the world and even some communities have higher instances of certain diseases than others. Nurses who work closely with these communities can use their research skills to find out why this is the case.
Once their research is done, they can use its findings to influence policies and ensure proper attention is paid to these communities to reduce the prevalence of these diseases.
This also applies to disabilities. For example, the healthcare community has been able to eliminate debilitating diseases like polio through community cooperation and research. Applying the knowledge gained, they have been able to put together vaccination strategies that have eliminated the disease and the disabilities that come with it.
Second, nursing research is used to find new ways of managing the symptoms of disease. Symptom management is a crucial part of providing healthcare, especially in patients who have chronic or degenerative and progressing diseases.
Proper symptom management can give people whose conditions or illnesses are untreatable relief and improve their quality of life. Nurses have discovered new ways of doing so through continuous research.
Lastly, nurses can use nursing research to improve end-of-life care. Nurses do much of the work involved in providing end-of-life care which means they are greatly affected when they do not have a good outcome with the people they care for.
By finding new ways of enhancing this type of care, nurses can ensure their patients enjoy their last days while reducing the emotional burden that comes from providing this type of care.
Apart from improving nursing welfare and helping shape healthcare policy, nursing research is a key component of evidence-based practice. This is a type of practice where nurses use past research endeavors and their findings to provide the best care and make the best decisions.
Peer-reviewed data that is accepted in nursing provides critical guidance while also establishing the best practices nurses use and follow in the field. Following the findings and evidence put forth by this research is what evidence-based practice is based on.
To be usable, the results have to be accurate, free of bias, reproducible under the same conditions, and verifiable under the harshest examinations. These set standards are so high because the results of published results influence nursing practice substantially.
Does The Research Meet Set Standards?
In addition to knowing how to do proper research nurses should also know how to examine different bodies of research to find out if they meet these standards. There are four critical areas to look at to determine this.
First, they need to check whether the research is valid. Validity refers to the soundness, accuracy, and legitimacy of the research. The second metric is reliability. Here, nurses are looking to find out whether the results of the research are consistent.
The third thing to look for is its relevance. There has to be a logical connection between concepts, occurrences, or tasks within the research.
Lastly, they have to check the outcome, which is what the researcher or researchers found at the end of their research.
Nurses must understand that not all bodies of research will apply to their specific concern, topic, question, or patient. They have to also understand that other nurses and practitioners will feel the same about their research.
Careful examination of any research they come across to find out if it has problems, inconsistencies, and biases is crucial. Evidence-based practice requires that nurses are proficient at these examinations and evaluations before using the information in these bodies of research.
Types of Research
The two main types of research used in evidence-based practice are quantitative and qualitative research. Nurses who enroll in advanced nursing programs such as a Doctorate program will learn about these two types of research methodologies.
These advanced degrees are focused on research and preparing nurses for roles in scientific study and the intricacies of nursing research. Nurses can enroll in a nursing PhD program to gain the skills that will help them conduct scientific inquiries while doing the research required to improve nursing and patient outcomes as well as the nursing profession.
So, what are qualitative and qualitative research? Quantitative research has to do with numbers, variables, and percentages that are used to communicate different results. Qualitative research is involved in perceptions, experiences, and thoughts, and it is these three that its results are based upon.
Types of Quantitative Research
There are additional types of research within this bigger umbrella. Descriptive research is meant to express the traits or characteristics of a group, individual, or situation. It is based on traits that have already been observed, trying to find connections between them and drawing conclusions from that.
Cause and effect relationships are researched under quasi-experimental research while correlational research looks at relationships between two or more variables and does not seek to draw any cause and effects conclusions, only observing how these variables are related.
Types of Qualitative Research
There are three main types of qualitative research in nursing. Ethnography is involved with the study of social and cultural customs and norms as well as how different cultures view health and disease. Grounded theory, on the other hand, builds theories depending on questions, observations, and issues.
Other disciplines include historical research, phenomenology where a researcher uses their personal insights and experiences to draw conclusions, and symbolic interactionism which is a larger observation of communities and individual interactions that can inform how people view healthcare.
Each of the types of qualitative and quantitative research options has its strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. It is up to nurses to understand this and know which type(s) to use in their research.
Why is Research Important in Nursing?
The most important reason why research is so important in nursing is that it leads to better patient outcomes. When nurses are informed of the best and latest care practices, they perform a lot better because they already know what they are supposed to be doing according to best practices, standards of care, and operating procedures, and when they are supposed to be doing it.
Patients receive the best care faster, which reduces complications that lead to negative patient outcomes.
When patients receive the care they need and thus avoid complications, their overall healthcare cost and burden are reduced. By avoiding these complications and this getting better faster and early, they do not have to see specialists or be moved to a different hospital where they will get better care.
Hospitals also see a reduction in cost as they are less likely to see mistakes that would cause lawsuits which can be very expensive, especially in nursing malpractice cases. Even where a healthcare institution has great insurance, it can see its premiums go up significantly which is an added monetary burden on the institution.
It Helps Shape The Nursing Profession
As mentioned above, healthcare and nursing are always evolving. Every year, nurses learn how to do things differently and better. All of this comes from the research they do themselves or that is done by others.
Nursing research builds on itself, with older practices discarded for new pens as more research and evidence come to light. Through this princess, research has shaped the nursing profession to where we are now where we can celebrate better care and outcomes which we could not do just a few decades ago.
Improved Nurse Wellbeing and Welfare
While rewarding, nursing is also a very challenging career. There is not only a lot to learn but also to deal with as a nurse. Nurses are usually under a lot of physical and emotional stress, especially in cases where they work long hours and depending on the specialization they are in.
There has been a lot of research done to help improve the working conditions for nurses. Even in the current climate where we have a severe nursing shortage, the plans that have been put in place to help nurses are still working.
For example, many healthcare facilities understand the impotence of work-life balance for nurses and are thus changing the way they view scheduling. Some allow nurses to pick schedules that work best for them and the hospital, while some give nurses enough days off so they have time to decompress.
Better nurse well-being and welfare have been very beneficial because studies have shown that nurses who have great work conditions make fewer errors and can cope with stress a lot better.
Apart from better patient outcomes, these nurses are also at a lower risk of burnout, which has an additional benefit of not making the current nursing shortage worse.
It Helps Eliminate Issues Related to Diagnosis and Care
Even in cases where nurses are well-trained and experienced, there is always the risk of mistakes happening in a healthcare setting. To eliminate these mistakes, nurses have to research them, find out why they happened and find ways of dealing with the issues they come across.
Nursing research arms them with the skills they need to investigate these issues more carefully and thoroughly compared to how they would do it if they did not have these skills.
Additionally, proper research helps nurses investigate various forms of treatment and care in an advanced manner. Because of this type of research, they know what types of care to provide to avoid diagnostic issues in cases of nurse practitioners and issues related to care in the case of registered nurses.
Inventing New Technologies for Patient Care
Numerous nurses work in research but do not work in hospital or healthcare settings. These nurses work in the development of new technologies under different pharmaceutical companies.
Because they understand patient care better than most other healthcare professionals, they are in a much better position to dictate what would work best for patients.
These types of nurses can use their research skills to find out what technologies have not worked in the past, why they did not work, and why the ones that worked did. This way, they can help in the development of technologies that ensure better patient outcomes.
Nurses have to keep learning and updating what they know. They have to rely on research they do themselves or that they do themselves. Having the skills to not only do the research but also identify what bodies of research are good is a skill all nurses should have.