Research to Drive New Breakthroughs in Patient Care

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Woman in a lab coat taking part in research.


Research is an incredibly important process in health care. To support evidence-based practice, health care practitioners, including physicians and nurses, must have informed and well-sourced research.

As demands in the health care sector rise, due in part to our aging population in the U.S. and abroad, access to clinical research is crucial in supporting proper and successful patient care. And as more patients rely on the expertise and services of family nurse practitioners, it’s imperative that nurses have the skills to not only utilize available research for patient care, but also participate in the research process.

In Bradley University’s online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program, students will take part in the NUR 526: Evidence-Based Practice course, which covers theories related to health care research utilization, and the ways in which professionals can identify issues for specific initiatives.

The role of research in nursing

There are several key benefits to having nurses educated and able to participate and drive results in the health care research process:

Supporting evidence-based practice

Research plays a crucial role in evidence-based practice, an imperative part of the family nurse practitioner field. Evidence-based practice revolves around the use of the most relevant, available data and research to guide decision-making in patient care

“In order to have evidence-based practice, we need evidence,” noted Elsevier contributor Nancy Blake, Ph.D., RN. “And with their knowledge and hands-on experience, nurses can theorize, hypothesize, structure studies and collect evidence that leads to better care.”

Applying field experience

As Blake noted, nurses can offer a different perspective for health care research, supported by their hands-on experience in the field. As nurses complete a different set of tasks and processes to support patient care than physicians, their perspective is invaluable for clinical research.

Informing and educating patients and their families

Nurses are also in a unique position to inform and educate patients and their families about courses of treatment and the decisions behind these actions. Take, for instance, the case of a nurse providing care for a new baby. The sound of an alarm from one of the many medical devices the baby is hooked up to could be particularly frightening for parents who many not understand what it means.

“When the alarm sounds, the nurse explains to the parents that it’s nothing to worry about — the oxygen in the child’s blood has just dipped below the average adult range but is nowhere near the danger zone,” Blake explained. “Having recently completed a research project on alarms in neonatal and pediatric units the nurse knows they can cause undue stress for the parents. She makes a note to adjust the settings on the alarm so they’re appropriate for the child’s age range and standard vital signs.”

Enabling care decisions

Nurses in many roles, including FNPs, have the autonomy to make decisions regarding patient treatment and care options. Practitioners who back their decisions with research experience can feel more confident about how they direct their patient care, noted The Conversation contributor Cathy Henshall, senior nursing research fellow at Oxford Brookes University.

“Nurses are trained to assess, review and oversee any changes to their patients’ health and lifestyle needs,” Henshall wrote. “They have the skills and experience to provide support to patients on a practical, physical, emotional and psychological level. In doing so, they can help patients to identify specific practices, such as dietary changes or exercise regimes, that may improve their symptom control and provide therapeutic benefits.”

The goal: Improving patient care, from a nurse’s perspective

Overall, the goal of engaging in research in the nursing field is to provide data- and information-based insights that can help drive improvements in patient care. As noted, nurses can offer a different perspective here, one that may be more patient-focused than that of a physician, Henshall pointed out. it’s particularly beneficial for nurses to create and participate in their own nursing-focused areas of research.

Some examples of nursing-focused research might include elements like:

  • Designing and testing intervention strategies to improve patient approaches to controlling and managing illness symptoms
  • Examining the barriers to health care access in certain regions, as well as the ways in which nurses can be helpful in removing these barriers
  • Identifying areas in need of improved processes, such as referrals, management and education

Bolstering nurses’ research skills

For professionals working toward their Master of Science in Nursing, specializing in the family nurse practitioner role can improve their clinical research skills through a course like Bradley University’s NUR 303 – Research in Nursing.

Students enrolled in this class will explore the importance of the research process in the field of nursing. This includes examining research activities and processes through the lens of nursing, including the steps involved in analyzing literature and writing a review.

To find out more about this course and the other concepts explored in the online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program at Bradley University, connect with one of our enrollment advisors today.


Recommended Reading

What Are The Benefits of an Online-only FNP Program?

What You Can Learn About Working with Aging Adults in Bradley’s FNP program

Bradley University Online MSN-FNP Program



Elsevier – Yes, Nurses Do Research, and It’s Improving Patient Care

The Conversation – Why Nurses Should Undertake More Research