Nurse researchers are scientists who study various aspects of health, illness, and health care. By designing and implementing scientific studies, they look for ways to improve health, healthcare services, and healthcare outcomes.
Nurse researchers identify research questions, design and conduct scientific studies, collect and analyze data, and report their findings. They often rely on grants to fund their work, which requires writing grant proposals and meeting certain reporting requirements. Many teach in academic or clinical settings, and often write articles and research reports for nursing, medical, and other professional journals and publications.
Nurse researchers may begin their research careers in positions such as research assistant, clinical data coordinator, and clinical research monitor. The title of principle investigator reflects the most senior research role and greatest responsibility and accountability associated with a research study. Studies conducted by these dedicated researchers are uncovering such things as new and better ways to:
Nurse researchers often partner with scientists in other fields, such as pharmacy, nutrition, medicine, and engineering, to better address complex questions and problems.
The results of nursing research help build the knowledge base and provide the evidence to guide interventions by nurses and other health care workers. For example, nursing research is improving prenatal care, patient recovery after heart transplant, and pain management for cancer and other patients.
Nurse researchers may work in diverse healthcare settings, universities, research organizations, laboratories, and other settings. They may also be hired by private companies and nonprofit organizations focused on healthcare issues.
Because research studies are often individually funded projects, nurse researchers may move from project to project, working for a specific time period until the grant money ends. The nurse researcher must then seek other funded studies or employment opportunities.
The work of conducting research studies, especially collecting and tabulating data, can involve a lot of repetitive activity and rote data entry. But it can be exciting and rewarding to contribute to research that discovers a new way to improve health care delivery.
Nurse researchers must be skilled writers, to write competitive grant applications, report study results, and prepare journal articles. Dissemination of the findings and research methodology often requires presentations at conferences and meetings.
The average salary for a nurse researcher is $95,000. In addition to research activities, nurse researchers with advanced degrees can supplement their income by writing books, teaching, consulting and professional speaking engagements.
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Almost all nurse researchers begin their careers as registered nurses with a four-year degree. Most then complete a master’s degree in nursing, followed by a Ph.D. A doctorate is increasingly required for advanced nursing research, leading some nursing schools to develop educational programs that allow students to pursue higher education while working.
Nurse researchers must be “scientists at heart” – interested in exploring questions and finding solutions through quantitative and qualitative research studies.
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Last updated: May 19, 2015
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