Anxious about nursing research? Let me put you at ease

Why is it that so many nurses still feel anxious about reading or engaging in research?

There will be many theories, but I think there are two key reasons. The first is that nursing has not been good at making research an integral part of nurse education, and as a result many nurses don’t know how to read, use or conduct research. Many might even struggle to see what research has to do with them. Secondly, research can be complex, and the language used in research papers and methodology books can alienate readers.

In the 1960s and 70s, research was the preserve of a small number of nurses, often working in universities, who were given rare opportunities to undertake small research projects. The number of nurses engaging in research grew through the 1980s and 1990s, in tandem with the realisation of the importance of nursing research in the development of patient care and nursing practice. In the 21st century, research has become a key part of evidence-based nursing practice, and all nurses need to know how research is conducted and how evidence is produced.

Despite nurse education in the UK shifting to universities in the 1990s, and more recently to an all-graduate system, many nursing students still enter the profession without a sound understanding of the importance of research, or how they might engage in it. Too few nursing students have the opportunity to undertake practice placements in research environments, or to undertake research projects.

In January this year, the Anglia Ruskin Nursing Research Unit was launched at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. Throughout the event, delegates and speakers emphasised the need to make research central to nurse education from day one, leaving students in no doubt that research is an integral part of what nurses do.

But this can only happen by demystifying how research is conducted and the language used to describe it. On March 4, Nursing Standard’s Art & Science section starts a 26-paper series introducing some of the main design issues and methodological options available to researchers.

The papers have been written by some leading figures in nursing and nursing research, who were asked to write their contributions for readers who might be new to research. I am confident they will prove to be a useful resource.

About the author

Leslie Gelling is a reader in research ethics in the faculty of health, social care and education at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge