The medical field is very dynamic and quite broad. Apart from health care providers who deal directly with patients in health care facilities, there are others who work behind the scenes in research to come up with findings that push the frontiers of health care. This is what nurse researchers do.
Nurse researchers study various aspects of health care. They design studies into ways of improving health care products and services. They also implement the findings they come up with. Research involves collecting data, analyzing it and reporting the findings.
Nurse researchers rely primarily on grants to fund their research. Writing grant applications is therefore part of the job. Research sponsors expect to receive concise reports so writing skills are also necessary. Researchers may sometimes be required to explain their reports in presentations which are done at meetings and conferences.
Qualifying for a nurse research career
The first qualification required is to successfully complete a basic course at an approved institution. There are qualifications that can be gained in a short time such as LVN and technician courses. However, if you are interested in a nurse researcher career, you should start with a Registered Nurse (RN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) course. These courses take up to 4 years unless completed through accelerated nursing degree programs, after which a state licensing exam will need to be taken.
After this, further academic qualifications will be required. Due to the research-heavy nature of the position and the importance of patient safety, a master’s degree in nursing may be required to become a nurse researcher, and to climb the career ladder to the topmost position of principal investigator, a doctoral degree is required.
The nurse researcher career
Many get their start in this career path by first working as clinical data coordinators, research assistants, clinical research monitors and other jobs that include doing medical research and reporting. In fact, many nurse researchers also give lectures in medical and academic settings. Others are contributors to nursing and medical journals.
The highest position that a nurse researcher can hold is that of a principal investigator. It is a role that comes with the highest level of responsibility and accountability, and also requires the highest level of study. At this level, the job involves preparing research budgets, negotiating contracts, doing quality checks on data analysis and interpretation and approving contracts to applicants.
Nurse researchers often collaborate with scientists in other fields. They partner with engineers, nutritionists, pharmacists and others to come up with answers to medical puzzles. Broadly speaking, the collaborations are aimed at improving patient care. A few examples include improving prenatal care for unborn babies and mothers with high risk conditions, improving patient recovery from various illnesses and improving pain management.
Working conditions of nurse researchers
Nurse researchers can be found working in a number of different environments. Some work in laboratories, health care facilities or hospitals, research organizations and others in universities.
Nurse research programs are often individual projects. A nurse researcher may therefore move from one project to another. They will typically work on a project as per the time specifications of the funding. Some researchers alternate between jobs and research projects. Researching potential big medical breakthroughs or contributing to them may be exciting but it involves a routine of collecting data, analyzing it and completing reports based on the findings.
Nurse researching organizations
Nurse researching organizations can be great route to stay in this specific field. These vary from local, regional and international organizations. Some of the benefits members enjoy are a number of service opportunities including support in getting grants, conference hosting and the opportunity to network with other researchers and be mentored and recognized.
The health care industry is constantly changing and fast paced, but the benefits are rewarding as you are on the front edge of helping improve public health. Becoming a nurse researcher is one such career in this field that could be satisfying and rewarding.