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The Vital Role of the Nurse Researcher

Image of a nurse researcher working on a computer

The National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institute of Health was established in November1985, for the purpose of enhancing the fields of biomedical and behavioral science, as they relate to nursing. As the overall study of medical science advances, researchers with the NINR are bracing the nursing profession to adapt to a new era of precision medicine and large-scale analytics. The NINR has recently launched their Strategic Plan, which is designed to help educated nurses and nurse researchers to improve their expertise, while promoting the discovery of new nursing innovations by broadening the following four themes of nursing science.

Employing symptom science to improve patient quality of life

Concepts of biology and behavior are being studied by nursing researchers to improve the current understanding of common symptoms that occur with many acute and chronic conditions and diseases. Through a concerted and transformative approach to symptom science research, the NINR is currently innovating new techniques for mitigating the disabling effects of adverse symptoms. These nurse researchers are providing a unique scientific perspective of how nurses can help patients manage multiple symptoms caused by either their conditions or certain treatments. Symptom science research is a top priority for the NINR, and they are focused on supporting basic, clinical, and biobehavioral research to procure the following advancements:

● Creating scalable symptom management interventions to improve health outcomes and overall quality of life
● Identify the common biobehavioral and mechanistic pathways responsible for transitioning symptoms from acute to chronic
● Determining symptom management practices that can change the trajectory of chronic conditions
● [5] Show how biomarkers can be used to:
○ Understand symptom expression and variability
○ Manage symptoms using biobehavioral interventions
○ Develop symptom management and prevention strategies
○ Manage physical and psychological symptoms in people afflicted with chronic conditions

Improving wellness standards throughout society

The NINR plans to improve the health of people across diverse populations by researching modern ways to prevent chronic illness, improve general quality of life, lower the impact diseases have on patients and caregivers, and reduce health disparities in the population. Examples of these efforts are represented by the nursing researcher’s efforts to lower obesity rates by testing the most effective ways to promote physical activity, and their promotion of health screenings in high-risk populations. Areas of focus for research of wellness at the NINR include[:5]:

● Using the latest innovations in nursing science and medicine to develop intervention strategies
● Identifying the links that exist between physical activity, nutrition, and environment.
● Using community-based research to discover the most practical interventions to reduce health disparities
● Implementing sustainable strategies that target chronic conditions in underrepresented minority populations

Using technology to enhance self-management practices

Oftentimes, patients who suffer from chronic illnesses have an impaired quality of life that must be supplemented by interventions from nursing professionals. The NINR is currently studying the best ways to implement new technologies in the effort to improve self-management for people afflicted by chronic conditions. Interactive medical records that help patients stick to complicated medicine regimes, as well as mobile applications that help track symptoms are two ways that the NINR hopes to help patients manage their own chronic conditions. Further research in this area is intended to [5]:

● Discover the basic concepts that influence effective self-management of chronic conditions
● Review the effectiveness of multicomponent interventions that promote improved functional health and wellbeing
● Mitigating adverse physical, functional, emotional, and behavioral outcomes
● Develop and incorporate new technologies to improve access to health care

Providing comfort to patients with terminal conditions

When caring for patients with serious advanced illnesses, nursing professionals must prioritize offering care that aligns with the goals of the patient and their families. This means developing strategies that offer necessary care, while still incorporating the preferences of the afflicted as the condition’s trajectory enters the bereavement period. The NINR is currently focused on creating a base of valuable information about the patients facing serious life-limiting conditions. With this information, the NINR will [5]:

● Develop new strategies to coordinate care transitions,
● Build new methods for assessing and treating end-of-life patients
● Test new ways of monitoring advanced symptoms
● Optimize the health outcomes of hospice and other care settings.

[4]The Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International recently hosted an event focused on Influencing Global Health Through the Advancement of Nursing Scholarship. Standout members of the nursing research community, Lydia Aziatio of Ghana, Parveen Azam Ali of the United Kingdom, and Ryan Shaw of the United States, were granted the Emerging Nurse Researcher award at this event, in recognition of their contributions to nursing and recent receipt of their PhDs. With the knowledge offered through pursuing a Master’s of Science in Nursing, nursing professionals can increase their capacity to innovate new care strategies through nursing research, providing meaningful improvements to the quality of life of patients across the world.

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Recommended Readings

10 Tips for Nurses to Effectively Communicate with Elderly Patients
Understanding Clinical Nurse Specialists
Patient Education and Chronic Pain

Sources

1. A Shortage of Nurse Researchers Looms
2. Nature Jobs
3. American Association of Colleges of Nursing
4. Sigma Global Nursing Excellence
5. National Institute of Nursing Research