How Do You Become a Nurse Researcher?

If you become a nurse researcher, you’ll be able to combine your passion for helping others with the excitement of discovering new knowledge. Nurse researchers bring a patient-focused background to the clinical world of research. This leads to a stronger focus on patients, greater investment from research participants and better results from health care institutions. Completing the training to enter the world of nursing research won’t be easy, but you’ll have plenty of support along the way.

What Do Nurse Researchers Do?

Nurses still provide the majority of bedside care to patients, but their role in the health care system has steadily advanced. Today, nurse researchers are bringing their compassion for patients and their scientific training together to create new devices, policies and procedures that improve health outcomes. They focus on health promotion, end-of-life care, increased quality of life for patients and many more elements of the health care system, according to the National Institute of Nursing Research.

As a nurse researcher, you can work for a hospital, non-profit organization or a university. As a hospital-based nurse researcher, you might work on system-wide improvements to enhance patient experiences or help other health care professionals design and implement studies. In the private or non-profit sector, you could work on a specific disease like Alzheimer’s or cancer. You could also work on new medical devices, new patient care protocols or new drug regimens If you want to become a nursing professor, you’ll spend some of your time training the next generation of nurses and the rest of your time designing, implementing and promoting research as an an important part of the nursing profession, according to Nursing Times.

How To Get Accepted to a Nurse Researcher Education Program

To work independently in nursing research, you will need a doctoral degree. However, you can find jobs as a research assistant without an advanced degree. Depending on your regional job market, you may be able to start working as a nursing research assistant with your Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN). You’ll have greater opportunities with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from either a four-year program or an RN-to-BSN bridge program. When you’re ready to apply for graduate-level training, you’ll want to have strong grades in your BSN program, at least a year of hands-on nursing experience and a strong understanding of research principles. Look for research-focused courses like Research Design, Nursing Methodology or Research Practices in Nursing when earning your BSN.

Is a DNP or PhD Better for Nursing Research?

Registered nurses have two choices for earning a doctoral degree. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is designed for nurses who want to continue caring for patients directly. A Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD) program is a better fit for future nurse researchers. These programs teach about previous clinical research, how to apply nursing principles to the scientific process and how to influence health care policy. A PhD in nursing is the best choice if you want to work at a university, research facility or health policy center and conduct research.

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The academic world is realizing the unique benefits of bringing nurses into the research project. You’ll need a lot of education to become a nurse researcher, but your patients and your career will thank you for making the investment.