Career advice

Careers in nursing research: finding the evidence for better care

If you are interested in investigating the issues that matter most to patients, research may be for you, says adult nursing lecturer Jessica Baillie.
Research-iStock.jpg

If you are interested in investigating the issues that matter most to patients, research may be for you, says adult nursing lecturer Jessica Baillie

When I finished my nursing degree and started work as a staff nurse in nephrology, I did not expect to work in nursing research.

In 2009, however, I had the opportunity to apply for a full-time doctorate funded by the Research Capacity Building Collaboration (RCBC) Wales, a programme designed to increase research capacity in nursing, midwifery and the allied health professions.

I started work as a palliative care researcher, and I am now undertaking postdoctoral research and teach in what is an enjoyable, diverse and demanding role.

Research pathways available to nurses include clinical research, academic research and clinical

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If you are interested in investigating the issues that matter most to patients, research may be for you, says adult nursing lecturer Jessica Baillie 


A career in research offers the opportunity to improve future care through
the discovery of new evidence. Picture: iStock 

When I finished my nursing degree and started work as a staff nurse in nephrology, I did not expect to work in nursing research. 

In 2009, however, I had the opportunity to apply for a full-time doctorate funded by the Research Capacity Building Collaboration (RCBC) Wales, a programme designed to increase research capacity in nursing, midwifery and the allied health professions. 

I started work as a palliative care researcher, and I am now undertaking postdoctoral research and teach in what is an enjoyable, diverse and demanding role.

Research pathways available to nurses include clinical research, academic research and clinical academic careers. Whether nurses undertake research in an academic environment, such as a school of nursing or clinical trials unit, a clinical environment, such as a clinical research facility or clinical team, or elsewhere, their aim is to improve care for patients. 

Varied environments 

Nurses are well suited to research. They know what clinical questions are important, they are critical thinkers and can appraise evidence, they have excellent communication skills and ensure that patients are the priority. Research careers enable them to work closely with patients and their families in a variety of clinical environments and specialities. 

Useful accounts of what being a research nurse involves are available, for example from the National Institute for Health Research. There are also competency frameworks from professional bodies such as the RCN, and other additional training for research nurses, such as that provided by Health and Care Research Wales. 

In academic nursing schools, nurses work individually and as part of teams to design, secure funding for, undertake and disseminate research that is relevant to patients, families and the nursing workforce. 

Nurses in this environment have postgraduate qualifications and work with colleagues from clinical practice and other academic disciplines. They also supervise undergraduate and postgraduate students who are undertaking primary research and systematic reviews. 

Exciting options

Opportunities for funded doctorate programmes can be obtained from academic institutions and external organisations. 

Government policy in the UK has established a mandate for clinical academic careers, where the individual works in or alongside clinical practice and undertakes research, establishing clear pathways for training and progression.  

To facilitate this, a national guide, Transforming Healthcare through Clinical Academic Roles in Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions, has been launched by the Association of UK University Hospitals. 

The options available to nurses wishing to work in research are exciting and varied. Crucially, research careers offer the opportunity to improve care for patients through the generation of new evidence.  


About the author 

 

 

 

Jessica Baillie is a lecturer in adult nursing, and Research Capacity Building Collaboration Wales postdoctoral research fellow at the School of Healthcare Sciences, Cardiff University

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