When you think about research, is your curiosity piqued in anticipation of discovering new knowledge, or does your mind flash back to suffering through a nursing research class that was less than enjoyable? Unfortunately, many nurses experience the latter and tune out research literature instead of tuning in. That’s troubling, because research is the foundation of evidence-based nursing practice and it serves to define us as a profession.
If nurses don’t read and evaluate whether or not research findings have relevance to their work, they run the risk of practicing in a way that’s either ineffective or possibly even deleterious to patient care. No one wants to waste valuable time and effort performing tasks that don’t contribute to desired outcomes. But how do we turn the tide so that nurses better appreciate and utilize information from research? Perhaps we need an altogether different educational approach.
I had the pleasure of listening to a keynote address by Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, PhD, RN, CPNP/PMHNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, at a nursing research conference held at my hospital.* Dr. Melnyk advocated that faculty in undergraduate and graduate nursing programs shift their strategy from teaching nurses the mechanics of conducting research to the proper application of research findings in nursing practice.
Dr. Melnyk differentiated that BSN, MSN, and DNP programs enable nursing graduates to evaluate the strength of evidence and to apply research findings, while PhD programs prepare students to conduct research. These are important distinctions when considering advanced education or, perhaps, a new career goal.
I recall having to design and conduct a full research study and produce a thesis to meet requirements for my MS in Nursing many years ago. For me, the experience was, in a word, onerous. Rather than feeling inspired to conduct more research studies, I simply felt relieved that I was finally done. That’s okay—though I greatly value the research process, I learned that my personal preference is research application.
To survive and thrive, we need a diverse talent pool of nurses who will enable our profession to confront the challenges we face, formally study the issues, and forge the best path forward guided by the strength of the evidence. Anything less, and we risk going back to healthcare’s dark ages.