5 Ways to Become a Research Literate Nurse

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I have to admit. As a new nurse, I never really liked research or had any aspirations of conducting my own.

When required to read research articles, my eyesight would get blurry as I read the methods section and I would catch myself mentally writing my grocery shopping list instead of reading! But then I went to graduate school and my understanding of nursing research changed.

I realized that as a professional nurse, I had an ethical responsibility to my patients to become RESEARCH LITERATE.

Evidence-based research is the foundation of many procedures performed in nursing. Hospital and department unit policies are built upon evidence-based research. Evidence-based is just that, proof that evidence, or studies, show the particular procedure is working.

Basic research is finding an answer to a problem, which most nurses already do. Research literacy takes it a step further. Research literacy is understanding how the research was performed.

Becoming a research literate nurse is relatively easy if you have the interest to pursue research as a hobby or career.

Are you ready to become more research literate?    Here are five ways to get started:

   1.  Take a class – There are nursing research college courses available for you to deepen your knowledge of research. Think about a single task you do at work. For example, drawing blood on a patient and interpret the results. Why do we draw blood the way we do, cap the needle the way we do and perform the tests we do? If you can answer those questions, you have completed the “why,” but go deeper, understand how the researcher came up with those answers. What steps did researchers take into finding the reason why and how? Look at the results. How did someone figure out what a hemoglobin result is? The list can go on and on. A good nurse is a curious one who can find out answers for their patients and colleagues.

    2. Become certified – If you are not a certified nurse, it’s time to step up. Becoming certified helps everyone in the unit pick out the “star” knowledge of the unit. When you apply to other jobs, employers will know you are knowledgeable. You will know the “why” more than any other nurse, and you will learn how the researchers got there. Becoming certified engages you to research more, and keeps you interested in your field.

    3. Create a club – Do you enjoy research? You are not alone. Many nurses love to be detectives to figure out their patients’ problems and create new evidence-based ways to do things. Create a club where everyone can read a recent journal article and discuss it over coffee. When discussing it, ask about the variables within the study, limitations, and the study design.

    4. Develop an evidence-based project – Many nurse council groups or unit nurses have ideas to implement in their unit to do their own research projects. See what your unit is doing, and if they do not have one, brainstorm with the group ways you can perform research within your unit. If you are not in an inpatient  unit, start a blog, or a group online where you can dig into the problems of nursing and find out answers.

    5. Become a research nurse – Many hospitals, especially teaching hospitals, have a specific research department that hires nurses to investigate ongoing research and start their own studies. If you have a genuine passion for research, then apply to a job that you can do what you love.

Throughout my nursing career, I’ve learned just because I didn’t want to conduct my own research studies, didn’t mean I couldn’t appreciate and incorporate research into my practice. Actually, doing so is a MUST for nurses to articulate our value.

Every nurse should be able to perform research and should enjoy it. Those who take it a step further to find out the “how” to become more diverse and knowledgeable.

Trying out a new evidence-based method can be difficult because implementing change is never easy. Over time, you will see that research and evidence-based practice is everywhere. Our patients deserve the best, evidence-based care we can provide.

Thanks so much for reading. Take care and stay connected!

Renee Thompson


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Dr. Renee Thompson works with healthcare organizations that want to overcome the leadership and clinical challenges their people face every day.

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2 thoughts on “5 Ways to Become a Research Literate Nurse”

  1. Great post. I’ve not met many people who enjoy researching. But it is so cardinal to your success, keeps you prepared for the unknown. Especially in nursing and related healthcare, where being a bit more diligent might become an attributing factor to saving someone’s life.
    Sharing this!

    1. Thanks Shizza. So many nurses shy away from research but understand the evidence that supports the work we do helps us articulate our value! Thanks for sharing and being an advocate for our profession.

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