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Nursing has ‘let itself down’ on research, says RCN chief exec

  • 8 Comments

The nursing profession has failed to identify priorities for research that make a difference to practice, while existing evidence is not easily accessible, the head of the Royal College of Nursing has said.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies said that, while nurse research was often “interesting academically”, it was not necessarily useful.

“We haven’t systematically determined what sort of research we need to manage a nursing service”

Janet Davies

Speaking at a conference for senior nurses, which was jointly run by the RCN and NHS England, she said the profession was still yet to “systematically” prioritise the gaps in research that were needed, in particular for managing nursing services.

Meanwhile, evidence that had already been produced – such as work on the difference nurse staffing levels make to patient care – was difficult to find, she claimed.

“This is an area where we have, as a profession, let ourselves down,” said Ms Davies. “It is very difficult to find evidence of our practice and it is very difficult to find the research around things such as registered nurses making a difference, staffing levels making a difference, input of care. 

“And we haven’t systematically determined what sort of research we need to manage a nursing service and in order to provide a nursing service. And when we look at the topics people choose for PhDs, it can be quite sad really,” she said.

She added: “It’s great they’ve got this great level of knowledge and PhD, but is it useable, is it going to make a difference to practice or to managing nursing services? Quite often not. It’s interesting academically.” 

  • 8 Comments

Readers' comments (8)

  • michael stone

    I think that the RCN - the ROYAL COLLEGE of nursing - could perhaps help, with these shortfalls ?

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  • Totally agree Michael. RCN mindset is wrong in the first place. If you Chase traditional EBP based on influence of economic values then what do you expect?

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  • michael stone

    It isn't entirely satisfactory, at some level, that medicine as a profession has got both a union (BMA) and Royal Colleges, while nursing seems to have the RCN as some sort of combination of those two different roles: another example, I suspect, of doctors being 'taken more seriously/exerting more influence' than nurses ?

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  • Nursing could take some ideas from other professions and policy areas. The RCN could join the What Works Network which commissions and assembles research for practice and policy: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/what-works-network

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  • This is an interesting point of view from the leader of a Royal College-it's also an erroneous one. I meet plenty of nurses doing or implementing research/evidence base in everyday practice-I spent the weekend with lung cancer nurses who are doing exactly that.
    There is also plenty of research on staffing and the impact of nurses-there are gaps of course but the reluctance of the college to use the evidence that already exists makes this statement puzzling.

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  • Oh dear. These are really unhelpful remarks. Does Janet read any nursing journals? Does she use 'her' own library? Does she seek information from nurse researchers and research nurses? What does the college do to identify, sign post and promulgate nursing research? Nursing is very quietly under siege at the moment - and the head of the RCN should be doing everything she can to promote the best quality, highest qualified nurses as essential to good quality care and safety, not making sweeping remarks that undermine the process of creating an evidence base. This is sad indeed.

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  • Totally agree June, RCN used o be a centre for nursing scholarship, what does it do now?

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  • Hello , if you are telling us that the research hadn't been useful i want to say what you have done ? you are briefly telling the problem but you as a master , what is your solution ?!

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