Authors

  1. Blegen, Mary A. PhD, RN, FAAN

Article Content

A strong statement asserting that research-based knowledge in nursing is of utmost importance should not surprise readers of this journal. During the half century since the first issue of Nursing Research was published, the growth in research supporting nursing practice has been phenomenal. The dynamic trajectory of nursing research through the last 20 years of the 20th century seemed to be a self-sustaining surge as more and more nurses were trained in research methods at the doctoral level and funding for nursing research was formalized at NIH with the creation of the NCNR, now the NINR. In these first years of the 21st century, however, there are signs that this forward thrust is slacking.

 

There is still an overwhelming need to produce knowledge that is valid, replicable, and generalizable, and on which we can base our practice interventions. As evidence-based practice becomes the accepted way to design nursing care, service settings have created mechanisms that support searching for the research pertaining to a clinical problem, synthesizing this research, and creating protocols to implement in practice. But for many nursing practice problems, there is no research on which to build protocols. For some nursing practice problems there are a small number of studies, some done using methods that were not meant to produce generalizable knowledge, and some intended to produce generalizable knowledge but contained sufficient threats to validity that made applying this knowledge questionable. Before our profession can move forward to evidence-based practice we must have better evidence.

 

And yet, within our profession there are movements away from rigorous research-based doctoral training. These movements are for the best intentions and respond to identified needs: more quickly produce nursing faculty in order to increase nursing school enrollments or to replace faculty members who are reaching retirement age; and to produce nurse leaders effective in the service settings to establish evidence-based practice and to influence public and corporate policy. However, well-intentioned movements that siphon off and soften the rigor of the research training that has been the foundation of doctoral education may, in the long run, be detrimental.

 

Without rigorous knowledge production, experts engaged in developing evidence-based practice will not have evidence to use, faculty teaching new nurses will not have content, and leaders promoting policies that support high-quality nursing care will not have arguments based in data. We must ensure that the limited resources available to support the future of our profession are used in a way that will continue to build the knowledge base.

 

Many barriers to nurses' conducting research have been overcome by strong nurse researchers of the last several decades. We initially have earned credibility and respect from researchers in many disciplines and now must strive to maintain and enlarge that. This is not the time to back away from this challenge. We did not during the last 50 years and we must not during the next.

 

-Mary A. Blegen, PhD, RN, FAAN

 

Associate Editor

 

E-mail: Mary.Blegen@UCHSC.edu