Why Is Nursing Research Important?

A nurse’s primary role is that of caregiver and advocate for their patients. But nursing roles have expanded, giving nurses the opportunity to contribute to patient health and well-being in other critical ways.

Nursing research, for example, is credited with making significant contributions to healthcare. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), “Nursing research provides the scientific basis for the practice of the profession.” Knowledge and insight derived from this area of “rigorous scientific inquiry” helps “advance nursing practice, shape health policy and impact the health of people in all countries.”

Nursing Research Adds a Unique Perspective to Healthcare

Nursing research does not replace traditional research; it instead enhances it. According to Explore Health Careers, nurse researchers conduct studies, analyze data and share results and insight gained with the healthcare community. They also contribute articles to academic journals and write grant proposals to gain funding. In this respect, their work resembles that of a traditional scientific researcher.

The primary difference is that nursing research is more practical in nature and provides immediate benefits to patients. This is emphasized in Lamar University’s Nursing Research course, part of the online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Administration degree program curriculum. The course focuses on using research methods to solve “practice-related” research problems, specifically exploring how to apply scientific findings to practice. The findings of nursing research can help healthcare providers deliver more efficient and effective care, improve treatments and outcomes for patients with chronic illnesses and promote healthy lifestyles.

Nurses perhaps have the most intimate understanding of patients’ various physical, emotional and socioeconomic needs. This knowledge gives them a unique perspective as researchers; it allows them to ask pertinent research questions, analyze data and draw actionable insight from findings that can help improve patient health and well-being.

What Are the Benefits of Nursing Research?

Nurse researchers conduct studies that make significant contributions to the nation’s healthcare policies and models. The National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) highlights numerous impactful studies in the Featured Research section of the NINR website.

For example, a 2021 study targeted the research problem of how to address high levels of obesity in today’s youth, specifically those at greatest risk of obesity and related diseases (youth in minority and low-income populations). The study tested a specific intervention, interjecting “social-oriented physical activity” and “get-to-know-you” sessions into afterschool programs for early adolescents in minority, low-income populations.

Results showed that, in comparison to control groups, youth who participated in the intervention experienced an increase of nearly an hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) weekly. Increased MVPA positively impacts weight status, cardiorespiratory fitness and other health outcomes. As NINR explains, these findings “provide support for physical activity interventions to incorporate social factors in programs for underserved youth and can inform future school-based health initiatives.”

This study exemplifies how nursing research can target a specific, complex problem, test a hypothesis in creative ways and provide findings and evidence-based insight that can be applied directly to policy and practice, affecting positive change.

The Path to Nursing Research

According to an AACN guide for nurses interested in graduate study, principle researchers and those in other senior research roles are expected to have a doctoral degree. Most nurse researchers, however, begin their careers in various assistant roles and capacities which generally require a master’s degree.

An online MSN program can help you prepare for a career as a nurse researcher. As noted earlier, Lamar University’s Nursing Research course teaches students to analyze research methods, design research, collect data and apply their findings to benefit nursing practice. Further, Lamar University’s MSN programs include two Evidence-Based Project courses in which students use research methods to develop and implement a project proposal, from investigating a problem to disseminating findings.

Nurses with advanced research skills can continue to advocate and care for patients by designing and assisting with scientific studies. The findings from these studies have positive and immediate effects on different populations, including minorities, school-aged children and the elderly. Nursing research provides an opportunity for nurses to use their scientific skills while continuing to serve the immediate needs of their patients.

Learn more about the Lamar University online MSN in Nursing Administration program.


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