My job

Follow us into a career in nursing research, you won't regret it

Peggy Chinn and Jill Maben have enjoyed successful careers as nurse researchers, so we asked them for advice on how others might follow thier lead

Peggy Chinn and Jill Maben have enjoyed successful careers as nurse researchers, so we asked them for advice on how others might follow thier lead

Peggy Chinn, formerly professor emerita, University of Connecticut

What prompted you to go into research?

I became fascinated with nursing theory and philosophy in my master’s and doctoral programs. I was also passionate about feminism, which led me to become interested in social change and critical social theory.

I did not hold a research role per se, but I accepted the job at the University of Connecticut to be director of the PhD program, and teach courses in philosophy and theory. The curriculum was a great ‘fit’ for me because the curriculum was based on Carper’s patterns of knowing in nursing.

What are your research interests?

My research has always been outside the mainstream, which nowadays is quite a challenge because of the misguided emphasis on funding, which discourages much of the work needed in nursing on topics that are not ‘fundable’.

My work has been in the area of nursing theory and philosophy, including the integration of feminist and critical theory (emancipatory nursing), and my research focused on aesthetic knowing in nursing and the art of nursing.

What are you most proud of?

Probably when I’ve facilitated communities of scholars that encourage collegial, supportive relationships – often based on ‘Peace and Power’. Also, I founded the journal Advances in Nursing Science in 1978 and I still serve as editor.

What was your first job?

It was as a staff nurse. After that I worked as a paediatric office nurse, then I went to graduate school in nursing and started my academic career.

What else could you have been?

When I started the choices for women were limited, but I often wished I had considered a career in architecture.

How can a nurse tell if they’re cut out for a career in research?

You have to love it. And your area of focus needs to be something that makes your eyes light up, and something that you could easily chat about with anyone, anywhere, if they would listen. This includes having an ‘elevator speech’ that succinctly and clearly conveys why this is important, and why people should pay attention to the work you are doing.

What’s your top tip for someone considering a career in nursing research?

Find your passion, and stick with it. This means finding an environment for your graduate work where you are fully supported and encouraged, and also challenged to take your ideas to their full potential.


Professor Jill Maben, director, National Nursing Research Unit

Why did you move into research?

Curiosity. I took a history degree after I qualified as a nurse and I wanted to apply some of the academic skills I’d learned to the field of nursing. I hoped to provide an evidence base to improve patient care.

What do you love about your job?

Having an impact on practice, supporting others to develop their careers and mentoring students. I also love fieldwork and I’m passionate about creating positive practice environments for staff and supporting them to care for patients.

And the worst thing?

Emails! It’s a challenge to manage the volume, recognise the opportunities and abilities to influence that come my way through emails, yet not have my work driven by them.

What are your research interests?

Staff wellbeing and the impact of the work environment on nurses’ abilities to be compassionate and caring. Also cultures of care, positive practice environments and developing resources to support staff in their caring work. We have just completed a study in which we developed a training intervention to support healthcare assistants in delivering relational care to older people. I am also evaluating Schwartz Rounds in the UK.

What’s been your proudest achievement?

Getting my PhD – a long journey with the birth of my daughter in the middle. I’m also proud that my work has shed light on the challenges of the emotional work that health professionals do. My programme of research has highlighted how ideals and values of new nursing students can become compromised and crushed in poor work environments and has demonstrated the links between staff experiences of work and patient experiences of care, which has helped organisations realise the importance of better support for staff.

What was your first job?

Working in a fabric and haberdashery shop as a Saturday girl aged 16. First nursing job was on a female medical ward and first research job was at King’s working with two of the best nurse leaders and researchers – professors Dame Jill Macleod Clark and Jenny Wilson-Barnet.

What else could you have been?

I never considered anything else, although when I ‘left’ nursing to take my degree I wondered if I might become a history teacher or academic – but nursing pulled me back.

How can a nurse tell if they’re cut out for a career in research?

If they have a lot of questions about why things are done in a certain way and want to build the evidence base for practice, then that is a perfect start. An ability to be self-motivated and tenacious also helps.

And your top tip for someone getting into nursing research?

Keep grounded in practice and have your research questions driven by your clinical work. Clinical academic careers are the way forward and important for nursing. Equally, consider doing a masters in research or in an allied subject (psychology and medical sociology). Find a mentor, think about an internship or elective placement as a student and get support from colleagues. Don’t be afraid to ask researchers for advice – we love to share our experiences.

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