Should undergraduate student nurses undertake research?

Last week I took up a new post as Senior Lecturer in Children’s Nursing at the University of Huddersfield, UK. Having been involved in teaching health professionals research and evidence-based practice at undergraduate and post graduate levels, for over 10 years, I am excited about being offered the opportunity to be part of the school’s undergraduate interdisciplinary research modules.

Within the UK, and internationally, it has been long recognized that nursing should be a research-based profession.  Using the best available evidence to deliver high standards of care at all times is a core standard within the UK nursing code of conduct.1 Whist it is likely that most nurses will not undertake research as part of their everyday practice, basing care on the best available evidence should be central to every nurses’ clinical decision making processes. Maximising nursing students learning about research and evidence-based practice is essential to ensure the future delivery of high quality cost effective care. Three main approaches to teaching nursing students about research have been identified.2 First, facilitating an awareness of evidence-based practice through debate, discussion and teaching research methods. Second, learning through participating in actual research projects.  Third, a blended approach, typically achieved by a mix of ‘theory’ and ‘doing’. Although there have been, and perhaps still are, concerns about students undertaking research, the real challenge is changing attitudes towards embedding research into nursing curriculum. Large student numbers and a need to develop projects that are meaningful to the students without placing patients at risk need to be overcome. The benefits of nurses in the future being knowledgeable and enthusiastic about research combined with the skills to critically evaluate the evidence-base underpinning practice can only be positive for patients and care delivery.

Change can be daunting but can also be a great opportunity to reflect on previous experiences while embracing different approaches and new ways of working. I am really looking forward to and sharing the challenges of working with groups of pre-registration health professional students undertaking interdisciplinary undergraduate projects in future blogs.

 1Nursing Midwifery Council (2008) The Code; standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives.Nursing Midwifery Council, London.

2Jonhson, N., List-Ivankovic, J., Ebon, W.O., et al. (2009) Research and evidence based practice: using a blended approach to teaching and learning in undergraduate Nurse Education. Nurse Education in Practice, 10, 43-47

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