Nurses and Qualitative Research

Nurses rely on coworker assistance, evidence-based research and the knowledge and skills they gain from quality nursing education programs to provide optimal patient care. An ever-growing amount of research is available to nurses, and once they have pinpointed relevant research, they can implement it into their nursing practice.

What Is Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing?

Nurses incorporate evidence-based practice (EBP) into the delivery of patient care. In a Journal for Nurses in Professional Development article, Dr. Paula Roe-Prior defines EBP as “the integration of the best available evidence with the healthcare educator’s expertise and the client’s needs while considering the practice environment.” The EBP process involves collecting, assessing and applying research findings. Research gathered through EBP improves clinical decision-making, work environments and patient outcomes.

What Are the Two Types of EBP Research?

The two varieties of EBP research are quantitative and qualitative, although mixed method approaches to healthcare research combining both quantitative and qualitative research are also common. Nurses utilize quantitative and qualitative research in order to evaluate the best interventions for patients. They also may gather contextual information through EBP research that helps determine how to proceed with patient care.

What Is Qualitative Research?

The origin of qualitative research traces back to the early twentieth century. Sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, linguists and others used qualitative research to study people, cultures and communities around the world. Today, qualitative research is used in various fields, from the behavioral sciences to marketing and healthcare.

The objective of qualitative research is to answer how and why a particular phenomenon occurs. It is the study of the nature of phenomena. Finding out what makes up a phenomenon, what it is comprised of, is central to conclusions drawn from qualitative research.

What Are the Methods of Qualitative Research?

Nurses can employ various qualitative research methods, such as:

  • Grounded theory research
  • Narrative research
  • Ethnographic research
  • Phenomenological research
  • Historical research
  • Case study research

Nurses choose the appropriate method depending on the research question. For example, if nurses want to generate an evidence-based theory surrounding the occurrence of a phenomenon, they could employ grounded theory research. Nurses who are interested in understanding and defining the essence of a phenomenon may focus on phenomenological research. Ethnographic research in healthcare delves into the study of a culture-sharing group’s knowledge and behaviors as related to health and illness.

How Is Qualitative Research Conducted?

Qualitative research is a compilation of data. Nurses incorporate several techniques to collect data. They may perform the following:

  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Observations
  • Narrative life histories
  • Analysis of audio, video and written materials

In healthcare, nurses tend to carry out semi-structured interviews. The interview may include a topic and open-ended questions. The interview discussion may be adapted to changes in the conversation so nurses can record a patient’s experiences and attitudes about their healthcare. This kind of interview builds a rapport between nurses and their patients, which can lead to insightful views and descriptions from patients. Insight and information gleaned from such interviews may uncover issues and concerns that need to be addressed.

Why Is Qualitative Research Important?

Qualitative research consists of many components such as systems, processes, best practices, observations and personal experiences that are put together to establish a useful resource. The knowledge garnered from qualitative research allows nurses to gain a new perspective about patient care or validate a proper course of action. Qualitative research can investigate and explain unique and complicated information and phenomena, all of which can be difficult to explore, explain and represent quantitatively.

What Kinds of Questions Can Qualitative Research Help Answer?

Through focusing on targeted, complex subjects in an open-ended way, qualitative research may expose obstacles in healthcare, illuminate relationships between phenomena and context and enlighten nurses regarding how patients perceive the quality of their care. Nurses may survey patients about:

  • Service preferences
  • Attitudes toward healthcare
  • Motivations for seeking treatment
  • Decision influences
  • Cultural competence and sensitivity

How Can Nurses Learn About Qualitative Research?

Nurses enrolled in a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program will likely learn about both quantitative and qualitative research. In Lamar University’s online RN to BSN degree program, students complete a course called Nursing Inquiry and Evidence-Based Practice. This course builds on previous study of nursing theory and practice with the in-depth study of inquiry-based nursing research, analysis and the application of research findings to nursing practice.

To provide exceptional patient care in an evolving and complex healthcare system, nurses need to continue discovering innovative ways to practice nursing. Qualitative research is an important component of this discovery process. An RN to BSN program can help nurses develop the ability to integrate qualitative research into their nursing practice.

Nurses are valuable assets, essential to advancing patient care. Through communicating and collaborating with patients, peers and researchers, staying informed about emerging treatment options and applying research findings to EBP, nurses can play an important role in improving health outcomes for their patients.

Learn more about the Lamar University online RN to BSN program.


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