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How to make nurses confident about research

Ensuring nurses can use and produce research starts with ‘hands-on’ preregistration education

Ensuring nurses can use and produce research starts with ‘hands-on’ preregistration education


Picture: iStock

The future of person-centred and evidence-informed practice depends on a professional workforce that is confident about research.

Nurses should be involved in research at all career levels, but building this capacity begins with preregistration students acquiring a thorough understanding of the role of research in assessing, evaluating and improving practice.

As the representative body of UK university faculties engaged in education and research for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals, the Council of Deans of Health is committed to promoting research capacity in these disciplines.

Our new report, Becoming research confident, published later this month (15 May), reflects a desire by our members to ensure consistency, rigour and transparency in research undertaken as part of the preregistration curriculum. The report recognises that ‘getting it right’ in preregistration creates a strong platform for the future.

Time and competing demands

A survey completed by council members paints a varied picture of the extent to which research is incorporated in nursing, midwifery and allied health profession preregistration programmes.

There is wide variation in the proportion of students who undertake research projects, as well as differences in research-focused learning outcomes between courses for nursing and midwifery and those for allied health professions.

Respondents identified competing curricular demands and time restraints as the biggest barriers to integrating research into preregistration curricula. They also pointed to a lack of funded or resourced opportunities for students interested in research.

Creating research-confident students

  • All healthcare professionals should be able to critically assess and use the evidence that underpins practice. Graduates who are research-confident are more likely to apply for jobs that include a research, quality improvement or audit component
  • Universities have integrated research into preregistration curricula through modules on research methods and evidence-based practice, research-informed teaching, dissertations and interdisciplinary research projects. In close partnership with healthcare providers, some universities have created research placements and projects in practice to apply their research skills
  • Competing demands of the curriculum, time restraints and a lack of resourced opportunities for students can act as barriers to integrating research into preregistration curricula
  • To increase research exposure in preregistration curricula there needs to be further collaboration between higher education institutions and practice partners, shared learning between programmes and institutions, and engagement of students through hands-on and resourced opportunities

 

Hands-on approach

Students have an appetite for research. A survey by an undergraduate nursing student on the council’s student leadership programme found that students enjoyed learning about research, saw its relevance to their preregistration programmes and understood the link between research and practice.

However, it highlighted that they would like increased support and accessibility to research, and that a more hands-on learning experience would be beneficial.

A collection of case studies from council members is included in the report to showcase the diverse and innovative approaches being taken by higher education institutions to ensure that the research knowledge, skills and expertise of preregistration students are developed.


It’s important that competence in generating and using research is established at the
preregistration stage. Picture: iStock

A variety of methods

These examples include evidence-based practice modules, research projects and dissertations, integrated research-informed teaching, and research placements in practice.

They cover various disciplines and degree levels and include approaches for all students, as well as some for those who are interested in becoming involved in research beyond the mandatory curriculum.

The case studies demonstrate a variety of methods used to ensure preregistration students are competent users and producers of research.

Outcomes must be consistent

We should recognise and applaud the diversity of approaches that higher education institutions use to integrate research into their preregistration curricula. To increase research exposure in them there needs to be further collaboration between higher education institutions and practice partners, shared learning between programmes and institutions, and engagement of students through hands-on and resourced opportunities.

Both students and staff need support if integration of research is to be successful, and the expertise and resources of professional bodies can be harnessed for this. It is important that the research outcomes for students are consistent if the next generation of healthcare professionals is to have the evidence base needed to deliver effective practice.


    Brendan McCormack is executive member – research, Council of Deans of Health. He is also head of the divisions of nursing, occupational therapy & arts therapies and associate director, Centre for Person-centred Practice Research, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

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