1. Fowler, Susan
  2. Leaton, Mary Beth
  3. Baxter, Trish
  4. McTigue, Toni
  5. Snook, Nancy

Article Content

Starting a nursing research committee (NRC) begins with a vision and curiosity for learning. The vision must be tied to best practices, evidencebased practice (EBP), and advancing the art and science of nursing. It should also be linked to the nursing culture at the institution. Embedded in starting an NRC is a quest for knowledge and professional growth. This article presents a historical perspective and provides our own experiences with an NRC.



A historical perspective on nursing research provides a foundation for understanding the need for and development of NRCs. The National Center for Nursing Research (NCNR) became part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1986. Seven years later, it became an NIH institute and was renamed the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR; Norwood, 2000). National recognition and acknowledgment of research by nurses emphasized the importance of research for the profession. During this time, the American Nurses Credentialing Center's (ANCC) Magnet designation for excellence in nursing was formalized with an emphasis on quality of care. Research was embedded in the concept of quality of care, which today is a specific force of magnetism. ANCC recommends that an NRC, council, or similar structure, exist to promote the integration and acculturation of EBP and nursing research. Both initiatives by NINR and ANCC triggered thinking and action by nurses in healthcare institutions for the formulation of NRCs.


Getting Started

Efforts to start an NRC begin with a group of interested nurses with a passion to promote understanding and generation of research and evidence-based practice. Generating interest in nursing research is the first step in developing an NRC. Strategies to generate interest include (1) securing experienced leadership, (2) inviting staff nurses, (3) starting a journal club, (4) communicating via a newsletter, (5) including research in the institution's clinical ladder system, and (6) celebrating nursing research (Hedges, 2006). Leaders are needed to provide momentum for creating interest and involvement in research. Advanced practice nurses (APNs) may be the leaders in some institutions because they often use research findings in revising policies and procedures or implement investigations as required by their job descriptions. Staff nurses may welcome a personal invitation to the NRC, either written or in person. Journal clubs that highlight research articles are an easy way to start a discussion among staff nurses. They also facilitate understanding of the research process and encourage study critique. Written communication about nursing research can be facilitated in alreadyexisting newsletters or a specific nursing research newsletter created just for this purpose. Placement of research-related activities within clinical advancement programs provides emphasis and direction for research. Celebrating success refers to dissemination of findings and recognition of nurses participating in research. Many of these activities simply raise the awareness of research among nurses that may spur inquiry and investigation.


The next step is formulating a purpose for the NRC. According to Vessey and Campos (1991), NRCs fundamentally have three main functions: (1) screen proposals for scientific merit, before submitting to the institutional review board (IRB), (2) facilitate the institutional research agenda and make sure nursing research issues are represented, and (3) educate nurses about research. Committee members must be clear on the purpose and function of the NRC as well as its synergistic relationship with the IRB. A balanced NRC membership consists of staff nurses, APNs, administrators, and researchers. However, achieving an appropriate mix can be challenging (Vessey & Campos). Some members may not have sufficient expertise to review the theoretical and methodological structure of proposed research investigations, but may possess excellent skills to evaluate clinical merit. Martin (1996) also suggested that members be knowledgeable about the research process, participants' rights, and the role of the committee.


Jacobson and Winslow (1998) reported findings from a survey of clinical nurse researchers on the topic of hospital NRCs. Responses from 139 researchers identified barriers that challenge the conduct of clinical nursing research including multiple reviews of a research proposal with different requirements by reviewers. It is essential to determine the number of reviews required (i.e., NRC, IRB), the focus of each review, and the depth of each. For example, the NRC may review the proposal for sufficient review of the literature and significance to nursing, whereas the IRB will focus on protection of human subjects.


Turkel, Reidinger, Ferket, and Reno (2005) suggested a different focus and format for NRCs. The NRC can serve as a forum for interested nurses to begin discussion about areas of research interest, create journal clubs, and become educated on EBP. They proposed that membership be inclusive of nurses at all levels of educational preparation and practice. Although some novice nurses will not be able to review research proposals due to limited knowledge and expertise, they can become educated on the research process and mentored to gain necessary skills. Novice nurses also can become involved in EBP guideline development. The NRC also can serve as a mechanism for generating research ideas rather than following a specific research agenda dictated by others.


Laying the Foundation

Five basic questions should be answered when considering the development of an NRC: (1) What is the purpose of the committee? (2) Who should be members of the NRC, and who should chair the group? (3) When and how often should the committee meet? (4) Where should the committee meet? and (5) How should the meetings be structured? Answers to these questions can be obtained through brainstorming among leaders and potential committee members.


One Hospital's Experience

Our NRC originated with a core group of nurses who were in pursuit of advancing nursing research and EBP at their institution. APNs, staff nurses, unit managers, staff development instructors, educators, and the chief nursing officer (CNO) composed the initial membership. The CNO was instrumental in determining the committee structure so that it paralleled membership on other shared governance councils. The committee was cochaired by a critical care staff nurse and nurse educator. The staff nurse was pursuing a master's degree and engaged in a research investigation. A nurse educator also led the committee to support the initial education efforts regarding the research process. Initial activity was limited to review of nursing research proposals and education on relevant research topics such as use of research findings in practice. Meetings were held monthly.


It is important to have synergy between the nursing research committee and nursing and hospital cultures to gain support for the time required to engage in the research process.


As the committee began to slowly expand and take shape, a university-based professor with research expertise joined the committee and provided direction, mentorship, and support for EBP and research efforts. A series of six consecutive, progressive education programs were provided, focusing on EBP and nursing research. As a result of these actions, NRC membership grew, the number of studies increased, and the quality of research proposals improved.


It is important to have synergy between the NRC and nursing and hospital cultures to gain support for the time required to engage in the research process. For example, staff nurse NRC members are able to attend meetings because managers and staff nurse colleagues adjust patient care assignments to allow attendance.


Nurses at our facility practice within a shared governance model. The NRC obtained council status within this model and subsequent bylaws were revised to be in accordance with other councils (Education, Practice, Quality Improvement, and Management). As a result, research is represented at the executive level of shared governance and secretarial support is available. Most councils are chaired by a staff nurse with a chair-elect. The Nursing Research Council is cochaired by a clinical nurse researcher and nursing research coordinator because it was felt that more mentoring and collaboration would take place with the cochair concept. Staff nurses can fulfill the position of cochair.


We determined the purpose of our new council was to encourage and support EBP and scientific investigations; it became more than reviewing proposals and educating nurses on the research process. We decided to adopt Newhouse's model for EBP from the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System (Newhouse, Dearholt, Poe, Pugh, & White, 2005) and continually educate nurses on EBP. We continue to serve as an initial review for nursing-research proposals prior to IRB submission. We have focused on communication to heighten awareness and understanding of the council, EBP projects, and research studies by posting this information on the hospital's intranet Web site, which includes a link to nursing research via the research and grants department. Recently, we developed a nursing research newsletter that is distributed bimonthly with various columns including member spotlight, critique of published research, listing of research-related conferences, and a question-and-answer section.


Consistency in a meeting schedule is essential in promoting attendance and participation. We have a set day and time of the month to meet with meeting reminders, agendas, and additional materials sent out 1-2 weeks prior to the meeting. The meetings are structured in the following manner: (1) introductions; (2) approval of minutes; (3) subcommittee updates (i.e., EBP education, research education, grant reviewer); (4) new business, including discussion of a pertinent article on EBP or research; and (5) education, which includes a 10-minute presentation on topics such as sampling, reliability, and validity. As the committee evolves, informational updates can be disseminated prior to the meeting to allow ample time for discussion and learning.


Keeping the Momentum

Keeping the momentum strong in the direction of growth and commitment is often overlooked by members of an NRC. It is essential to create a structure that generates enthusiasm and cultivates fresh ideas. Three initiatives that keep motivation and the energy level high within an NRC are dissemination of research findings, publication, and celebration. As research investigations are completed, there needs to be a mechanism for dissemination of findings throughout the organization. This communication promotes credibility of and interest in the NRC. Nothing is a better motivator for future research than implementing a practice change based on an investigation done at the institution. For example, positive findings from an investigation of a music intervention in critically ill patents resulted in use of music to increase patient comfort and decrease anxiety (Sabatini, 2006).


Another means of dissemination is through publication. Although facilitation of publication is often not thought of as a purpose of the NRC, it is an opportunity that needs to be harnessed. NRCs can facilitate learning of the publishing process by assisting with identification of appropriate journals, understanding author guidelines, and manuscript writing. We have recently formalized a publication subcommittee to help move our publication efforts forward. We have expanded our listing of EBP projects and research studies to include subsequent publications and presentations. This information is posted on the institution's Web site with a link to nursing research through the grants and research department. The public exposure and subsequent pride in publication can be a catalyst for future investigations and publications.


Celebrating success and achievements in nursing research is fundamental to maintaining and enhancing momentum. Institution-sponsored research education programs or conferences that feature research done by nurses within the organization spark the energy needed to sustain interest. They also provide safe forums for novice researchers. APNs play a key role in encouraging staff nurses to submit unitfocused EBP projects for presentation and assisting with development of abstracts and poster displays. We are currently building a research fund through monies received from outside consultation that nurses can access for a variety of reasons, including poster printing, data-entry services, and statistical consultation.


Future Directions

Nursing research committees evolve in their focus as the purposes and membership change, resulting in varying competencies and interests. In addition, goals targeted by both nursing and hospital administration provide direction for research activities. For example, as the hospital promotes multidisciplinary collaboration, including research, the NRC may extend membership to other disciplines, especially those engaged in shared governance. Streamlining the research review process is continually being addressed. Ongoing education of committee members is critical to ensure knowledge of and subsequent expertise in the research process. We chose the letters of the word research to guide our educational endeavors and topics: Review of the literature, Entry of data, Sampling, Evaluation of instruments or tools, Analysis, Reliability and validity, Conclusions, and Hypotheses and research questions. A separate education plan for EBP has also been developed and implemented for nurses throughout the institution. We developed a 5-part e-mail and poster series focusing on understanding the Johns Hopkins model for EBP. Response by staff nurses has been favorable. The next step in promoting EBP is a contest called "Unlocking the Key to Clinical Practice," which focuses on the best formulation of a practice question using the PICO (patient/population, intervention, comparison group or intervention, outcome) format.


Knowledge of resources, including grants and opportunities for research presentations, is important in promoting professional development. NRCs can meet this challenge by providing listings of Internet and institutional resources, grant opportunities from various organizations with focus areas and deadlines specified, and research-focused national conferences with abstract deadlines.


As NRCs become more seasoned, they need to explore new directions. For example, consider a nursing-research fellowship program to foster research interest in nursing students. Conceptualization and development of a center for nursing research housed in the department of nursing demonstrates commitment to advancing the science of nursing.



Literature and experience recommend that NRCs be clear on their purpose. NRCs have a responsibility to educate nurses on the research process and facilitate a user-friendly format for proposal review. Communication of research activities, including those of the committee, is one way to celebrate success in advancing the science of nursing. In the future, NRCs may become more interdisciplinary and function within a designated center for nursing research.




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Martin, P. A. (1996). Member responsibilities on a nursing research committee. Applied Nursing Research,9, 154-157. [Context Link]


Newhouse, R., Dearholt, S., Poe, S., Pugh, L.C., & White, K. M. (2005). Evidence-based practice: A practical approach to implementation. Journal of Nursing Administration, 35, 35-40. [Context Link]


Norwood, S. (2000). Research strategies for advanced practice nurses. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Health. [Context Link]


Sabatini, R. R. (2006). Hitting the high notes. Advance for Nurses, 6(3), 14-15. [Context Link]


Turkel, M., Reidinger, G., Ferket, K., & Reno, K. (2005). An essential component of the Magnet journey: Fostering an environment for evidence-based practice and nursing research. Nursing Administration Quarterly,29(3), 254-262. [Context Link]


Vessey, J., & Campos, G. (1991). The role of nursing research committees. Nursing Research,4, 247-249. [Context Link]

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