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Peer review: A tool for career growth

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By: Cynthia Saver, MS, RN

It’s a huge understatement to say nurses are busy, so why should you add to your workload by becoming a peer reviewer? That question can be answered at the macro and micro levels.

Macro level: For the profession

Peer review is essential to maintain the integrity of disseminated information—that same information you and your colleagues use to teach students and guide patient care. Without the input of experts, editors—who of course can’t be experts in every specialty—would have limited resources to ensure that what they publish is accurate, of high quality, and useful to practitioners.

Peer reviewers’ feedback also helps authors become better writers and to ensure what they publish is applicable to practice, education, or research. In essence, reviewers support their colleagues, which is one of the hallmarks of what a member of a profession does.

Micro level: For you

Martin and Moore point out that peer reviewers are well-positioned to learn about new developments in their field. Peer review also enhances your career: You can cite this contribution on your curriculum vitae, on job applications, and on documents related to career enhancement, such as tenure and clinical advancement programs (clinical ladders).

Moreover, critiquing others’ work sharpens your own analytical skills, making you a better writer. Considering your comments in the context of an article that you reviewed and is subsequently published can provide an additional path to improving how you think and present information, both orally and in writing.

Serving as a peer reviewer is usually volunteer work, but some publications offer other forms of compensation. For example, peer reviewers for Nursing Research who meet certain criteria, can receive continuing education credits for their work. Many publications publish an annual list of those who served as reviewers in the past year.

Becoming a peer reviewer

Editors frequently seek peer reviewers for their publications. Some put information on the publication’s website. For example, a page on the website for the journal Critical Care Nurse provides a contact email for those interested in serving as a peer reviewer. It also lists qualifications, including prior publication and/or clinical expertise. You don’t always have to be previously published to become a peer reviewer, particularly in the case of clinically focused journals such as American Nurse Journal. However, many publications do require reviewers to have a bachelor’s or graduate degree or certification in their area of expertise.

If you don’t see anything on the publication’s website, you can email the editor asking to become a peer reviewer. Munro suggests describing your expertise and why you would be a good match for the journal and attaching a resume that documents your experience and accomplishments.

Finally, tap into your network. If you know of colleagues who are peer reviewers, ask them if they would recommend you to the publication they review for.

Make a contribution

Most of us became nurses to help others. Peer review allows us to help many others—editors, authors, clinicians, and, most importantly, patients. Reach out today to start serving as a peer reviewer!

References

Chinn PL. Becoming a peer reviewer. Nurse Author & Editor. 2020. doi:10.1111/nae2.1

Martin E, Moor JB. Writing constructive peer review reports. JPMP Direct. August 29, 2022. jphmpdirect.com/2022/08/29/writing-constructive-peer-review-reports

Munro CL. Writing a peer review. In: Saver C. Anatomy of Writing for Publication for Nurses. 4th ed. Indianapolis, IN: Sigma Theta Tau International; 2021;121-9.

Nursing Research. Reviewer guidelines. journals.lww.com/nursingresearchonline/Pages/reviewerguidelines.aspx


Hi, I’m Cynthia Saver, MS, RN, president of CLS Development, Inc., which provides writing and editing services, and editor of Anatomy of Writing for Publication for Nurses, 4th ed. I’m also past editorial director for American Nurse Journal.

I’ve been a full-time professional nurse writer and editor for many years, and that doesn’t count the writing I did as I fulfilled my nursing roles in clinical, research, education, and management. My passion is helping nurses share their expertise through the written word, including, but not limited to, publication. Writing can be scary and intimidating. I hope to make it less so and to help you develop your writing skills the same way you’ve developed your nursing skills.

Whether you’re considering your first or your 50th publication, want to contribute to your organization’s newsletter, or crave to be a better communicator online and in print, I hope you’ll find what I write helpful. The nurse publishing colleagues I’ve learned from over the years (many of whom are contributors to my book) may not be listed by name, but I’m grateful for their willingness to share. In that spirit, I’m looking forward to sharing with you! If you have feedback, feel free to email me at csaver57@gmail.com.

 

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