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'Clinical research should be a routine element of nurse education'

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It might seem that with the current staffing pressures facing the nursing profession, that the last thing anyone would have time for is thinking about clinical research.

But without nurses being able to engage in such research, how will the profession be able to progress from a practice point of view, develop new innovations to improve ways of working and ultimately improve patient care – all of which are vital.

This month, Nursing Times has published the findings from a major survey that we carried out in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research and Health Education England.

It reveals that nearly two-thirds of respondents believe there is insufficient opportunity to build clinical research into their career, with lack of time and information cited as the major barriers. In contrast to the perceived challenges, nurses in our survey indicate a desire to get more involved in research and further develop their ideas for best practice.

“Nurses in our survey indicate a desire to get more involved in research”

In summary then, the survey shows that many nurses want to be more involved in research – from contributing to major studies to testing out their own ideas on improving care – but feel they lack the opportunities.

The NIHR and HEE are attempting to do something about this through their Integrated Clinical Academic programme for non-medical healthcare professions, now in its third year and open again for applications this month. It provides personal research training grants for nurses who wish to develop careers that combine clinical research with clinical practice.

Programmes like the ICA can do nothing but help, but there need to be more of them, more people need to know about them and I also think there needs to be something more fundamental done if we are to change the status quo.

 “There needs to be something more fundamental done if we are to change the status quo”

Some of this is about embedding the knowhow at an early stage, I think. Experienced nurse researchers that I spoke to highlighted that they thought clinical research should be a routine element of nurse education – in the same way that it is with medicine – and I agree.

HEE and the NIHR have vowed to take on board the key learning points from our survey and we look forward to working with them again in future on this important, yet often neglected, topic. Hopefully, in the near future, we will be able to report some progress.

As without research, there can be little progress, and without that both nursing and patients are unlikely to prosper.

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