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Nurse Researcher


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, health care services and health care 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:

  • Deliver health care services more effectively and efficiently
  • Improve quality of life for patients suffering from chronic illnesses
  • Encourage patients to make healthy choices about nutrition, fitness and lifestyle
  • Assure patient safety and prevent injury and illness
  • Provide care and comfort to patients at the end of life

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.

Working Conditions

Nurse researchers work in a number of different places, from health care facilities and universities to research organizations and laboratories. Private companies and nonprofit organizations focused on healthcare issues also hire nurse researchers.

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 results in new ways to improve health care delivery.

Nurse researchers write competitive grant applications, report study results and prepare journal articles so good writing skills are essential. They also may present at conferences and meetings, describing their research, its findings and methodology.

Outlook and Salary Range

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.

Academic Requirements

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.