How to get started in nursing research?

  1. This is going to make me sound a little dumb, but I figured I'd risk it in order to get input from the smart nurses here, particularly those with doctorates and research experience.

    I work in a very specialized clinical area, which has little in the way of publications (esp by nurses), no clinical guidelines, even little consensus in the field as to the best way to do things. I have a TON of ideas for papers or projects, but although I am interested and motivated, I don't really know how to start or who to access for help.

    For example, to start I would like to evaluate our current practices and outcomes so that we can benchmark where we are initially. Then I would like to implement an intervention, and assess the effect of it afterwards. Both from a results/quantitative point of view, and from a more holistic nursing/patient point of view I feel there are limitless research opportunities.

    I have taken graduate-level research and statistics classes, so I am familiar with things on a surface level, but I don't really know how to get started. Just start writing a proposal for the IRB? Talk to some of our physicians? I don't want this to become one of their projects that they give a fellow or med student to write up..! Find a nurse researcher at my school that can provide guidance?

    I am interested in a PhD at some point, but I feel confused as to whether I would be doing the degree to LEARN to be a researcher, or whether I would be expected to go into it knowing how to do research.

    Ugh sorry - rambling now! Any input appreciated.
  2. Visit ghillbert profile page

    About ghillbert, MSN, NP Guide

    Joined: Mar '08; Posts: 3,789; Likes: 3,432


  3. by   ghillbert
    Noone can advise about how to get started with a research project?
  4. by   pfruechting
    The very best thing to do is get your PhD in will learn research in depth. You are not expected to know how to do research. I highly recommend the program I'm faculty....awesome experience...University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I had thought I might do research even without my PhD but was told to be heard in this field, it's difficult to have the expertise to do rigorous research. NOw on this side of it, I see exactly that is true. There is no way I could have done it without my PhD....but the best part is it's been a tremendous experience, totally exceeded my expectations, and I couldn't be happier.
  5. by   llg
    There are a couple of things you can do to get started while you have your MSN.

    1. Identify some people in your area who might be resources for you. Does your facility have a research and/or evidence-based practice committee? Are there people in your facility currently doing research and/or evidence-based practice projects? What about people doing quality monitoring, etc.?

    2. Identify some current needs of your department. Do they have a need for the development of some new policies, procedures, patient teaching materials, etc.? You could take on one of those projects and turn it into an evidence-based practice project. The application of research in the clinical area combined with the evaluation of that intervention is a valuable contribution to the nursing nursing base -- and can be published, presented as a poster at a conference, etc. It's often a great way to get your feet wet in the whole research/EBP arena.

    3. Is there a local Sigma Theta Tau chapter you could join? That would help you network with local nurse researchers who might be good resources for you.

    4. Upgrade a current project -- e.g. formalize a needs assessment by using a survey, gather some data as to the quality of care your unit provides and then use that as a baseline "pre" measurement as you work on quality improvements, etc. In other words, start small with the types of activities and topics that are a regular part of your work. Do not dive into the deep end of the pool by trying to do a major research project as your first step. Ease into it with smaller projects that help you learn the ropes.
    Last edit by llg on May 1, '11
  6. by   ghillbert
    Thanks ladies, very helpful!
  7. by   xtine618
    Have you had any luck? I just got the position of Research Nurse Fellow at my hospital. Luckily there are 3 of us working on our project. It is very overwhelming right now, but you don't need a PhD to do research. If you haven't stated yet, I suggest picking one specific topic or issue you would like to improve and do a literature review. Does your facility have a library? I would start there. If not, do you have a college or university nearby? Librarians are highly trained and can point you in the right direction too.