Best degree for Research Nursing?

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    Hello research nurses! I am hoping you can help me out with a couple questions that I have.

    I am a new grad RN (May 2005 Associate Degree). I am currently working in med/surg which I am enjoying very much experience wise, but I have pretty solid plans to become a research nurse down the road. While I was waiting and waiting for a spot in the nursing program I actually started pursuing a degree in microbiology which of course got put on hold when I was accepted to the ADN program. My plan was to work either in a hospital lab or for a genetic or oncology research lab. Of course I was ecstatic when I got the call that there was an open spot for me in nursing school, but it was hard to abandon the idea of becoming a research scientist as I was really starting to get into the idea! I was even going to get to take astrobiology as a senior elective. For a nerd like me, that would have been an amazing class.

    Anyway, I need to start looking in to finishing my bachelor's degree and moving on to my master's and I have a couple of questions.

    1) I was told that if I want to pursue a science related master's degree I should go for a "BS with a major in Nursing" as opposed to a fast track "ADN to BSN" program. I have tried looking it up on allnurses already and didn't find much. I know hospitals probably don't care either way, but I can see the point of grad schools caring because from what I can tell the BS program I was looking at requires Chemistry where the BSN program doesn't. Does anyone know if this is really going to make a big difference for me? My problem is that I can't start the BS program until the summer and it's at an expensive private school. My job offers an accelerated ADN to RN at a special price through another university in my state that has flexible start dates. They do it University of Phoenix style... one class at a time, fast track which honestly sounds nice.

    2) Did any of you go to grad school for a non-nursing related degree? I am still interested in nursing related research... especially oncology and the thought of still having patient contact through conducting clinical trials sounds great to me. But I'm not really all that interested in becoming an NP or advanced practice nurse, so as far as grad school I'm at something of a loss because those are the degrees for nurses I hear about most. I was considering Public Health or maybe even going back to Microbiology or something along those lines. Could I still mix that with nursing?

    So I guess in a nutshell I'm wondering what kind of degrees all of you have. Thanks in advance!
    Last edit by Kittyfeet on Oct 1, '09 : Reason: Cause I can't spell at 2:30 am :P
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  4. 4 Comments so far...

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    I will chime in here with my thoughts. It might be worthwhile to shadow a research nurse for a few days to get a good idea of the ins and outs of the job. This might help you narrow your education focus. Honestly, an RN is all that is needed to become a research nurse. Having a BSN is helpful as there is usually some competition for research positions, however it is not necessary.

    I do have a BSN and I am almost finished with my MPH. My focus is in epi and I use my education to assist our PIs with developing internal research protocols and formulating new research questions. This is not one of the main components of my job (85% is coordinating clinical trials) but it nice to out my degree to good use.

    I think someone actually asked a very similar question not too long ago in this forum. You might want to browse through the forum to see if that thread helps out at all. I am in oncology research so if you have any other oncology research oriented questions let me know.
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    One thing that struck me in the OP that may require some clarification: you stated that you wanted to be a research nurse, and also said you wanted to be a scientist.

    A research nurse assists in studies, but they are usually not the Primary Investigator (i.e. scientist). If you eventually want to be a PI, and direct your own studies/projects, you will want to have a Master's at the very least, or a PhD. The PhD is the most commonly accepted degree for scientists, and PIs who do not have this degree usually work in conjunction with others who do. The biggest exceptions to this rule, are those with MPHs, though. They do tend to be PIs on studies more than most other disciplines (nursing included).

    As a research coordinator & PhD student, I just wanted to clarify that, only because I see this as a common misunderstanding among those who want to work in research.

    Shadowing a research nurse is a great idea. I do recommend having a BSN though, only because you'll have some research & statistics ed under your belt to enhance your knowledge base as an entry level research nurse.
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    Thanks to both of you for your input! I think shadowing a research nurse would be a great idea. To clarify my "backup" plan in case I didn't ever get into nursing school was to get a bachelor's in microbiology and then possibly go for a master's in public health. I guess I wasn't sure whether or not I was going to go all the way, get my PHD and run my own experiments. But when I got accepted into nursing school I dropped that plan even though I was still pretty interested in it. Nursing was what I wanted to do more, but I would still love to be able to be a part of research even if it is in a different role. I still wasn't clear on how far a nurse could go in research with a nursing degree alone, so this helps. I am still very interested in getting my MPH which sounds like it would be pretty useful in that field! I want both the science and working with patients aspect in my career... so I guess I have a lot of reading to do before I commit to anything! Thanks again, I might be back to ask more questions as I figure out what I will eventually be doing!
    BBFRN likes this.
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    Awesome- it sounds like a MPH might be the way to go for you, then. There is some really great research going on in public health right now. They are really on the ball in the areas of disease prevention and health promotion, if that's your general interest area. Of course, anc33 could probably tell you more about that than I can. Good luck to you!


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