May 15th, 2012
By Jennifer Olin, BSN, RN
Evidence based practice (EBP) isn’t really a new idea. The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has set forward a plan for 2012, which empowers nurses to use EBP in our daily care of patients. Florence Nightingale set forth much the same plan when she used her statistics and pie chart to measure outcomes and gain funding for her work in the Crimean War. So, EBP isn’t exactly news but it is noteworthy.
What provides the backbone for EBP is research. For the purposes of this audience, it is nursing research in which we are most interested. Nursing research involves the systematic inquiry specifically designed to develop, refine, and extend nursing knowledge. The intent of nursing research is to answer questions and develop knowledge using a scientific method such as quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods.
Nursing research in this country is supported by the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NINR supports clinical and basic research to establish a scientific basis for the care of individuals across the life span. The mission of NINR is to promote and improve the health of individuals, families, communities, and populations.
The NINR seeks to extend nursing science by integrating the biological and behavioral sciences, employing new technologies to research questions, improving research methods, and developing the scientists of the future.
As stated by the NINR, nursing research develops knowledge to:
It is nursing research we use everyday in the care of patient populations. Whether you are a floor nurse assessing pressure ulcers, a community clinic nurse instructing a young client on how to manage their newly diagnosed diabetes, or a charge nurse dealing with staffing issues there is nursing research available to provide you with relevant information to guide your own critical thinking skills and help you make the appropriate decisions and recommendations.
Establishing the NINR
Federal involvement in nursing research can be traced back to 1946, with the establishment of the Division of Nursing within the Office of the Surgeon General, Public Health Service.
In 1955, the first extramural nursing research program was established in the Research Grants and Fellowship Branch of the Division of Nursing Resources, Bureau of Medical Services. At this same time, the National Institutes of Health established the Nursing Research Study Section within the Division of Research Grants to conduct scientific review of the growing volume of applications in this area.
In 1960, public health nursing services were consolidated to form a new Division of Nursing at what is now called the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) – the agency responsible for clinical training in the health care professions. The initial and continuing goal of federal support was to build a foundation for nursing research. During this time, many academic institutions established pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellowship programs to train independent nurse investigators. Nursing research programs were also funded and research information was exchanged across the country.
The impetus for establishing the NINR came from the findings of two Federal studies:
These findings resulted in legislative action that established the National Center for Nursing Research (NCNR) at NIH in April 1986. The Center later became an NIH Institute with the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 and later that same year the name was changed to today’s NINR.
NINR Helps Train Nurse Researchers
The training of scientists at all stages of their careers sustains the foundation for excellence in nursing science. The development of a strong cadre of nurse investigators has been a primary goal of NINR since its establishment. To continue to support advancements in science and improvements in health, it is essential that the scientific workforce of the future be innovative, multidisciplinary, and diverse.
The NINR offers a variety of research training programs: summer institutes, individual and institutional pre- and post-doctoral fellowships, and other Institute-sponsored intramural and extramural research and training opportunities are all designed to build the nursing researchers of today and tomorrow.
The NINR even offers and online program which provides general research training for nurse scientists who are in the early stages of their career development.
Nursing research, like all areas of scientific research, is a highly competitive field when it comes to money. All the best intentions and organizational support means nothing if the nurses with the ideas can’t pay or be paid to do the research. This is another area where the NINR is supportive. Most of the research funded by NINR results from investigator-initiated application proposals. The NINR may not spend a lot of time going out looking for research ideas but they want to hear from you, the nurse or nursing committee about what kind of research you are doing and why.
The grant application is available on the NINR website. Applicants should discuss their research ideas with a program director who has expertise in their particular area of science interest. Funding decisions for any application are related to the idea’s scientific merit, its relevance to program priorities, and the availability of funds.
The primary areas of research funded by NINR are health promotion/disease prevention, eliminating health disparities, caregiving, symptom management, self-management, and quality of life. The NINR is the lead Institute at NIH for research on care at the end of life, an important emerging field.
If you are interested in the hard science behind the art and science of nursing the research field may just be what you are looking for. The NINR is working daily to help provide nurses with the information we need to provide care for all our different healthcare populations. If you have a subject you think needs to be addressed, check out the NINR website. You may be the next Nightingale with a pie chart, proving that nursing science changes lives.