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By: Susan B. Fowler, PhD, RN, CNRN, FAHA

A nurse scientist is an advocate for the art and science of nursing, committed to creating a culture of clinical inquiry, advocating for the translation of knowledge into practice, and generating new knowledge. Nurse scientists facilitate others’ research, provide staff development opportunities related to research and evidence-based practice, conduct their own research, and disseminate findings through publication and presentations. Some nurse scientists are university faculty who commit a designated percentage of work time to a healthcare organization or serve in a per diem role.

Characteristics needed. Nurse scientists must be able to think from A to Z (problem identification to dissemination) to generate new knowledge and incorporate research findings into evidence-based practice. Patience is key to enduring the research process, including ethical approval and dissemination.

Rewards. Watching the learning and enthusiasm of colleagues throughout the research process, especially dissemination of their work, is gratifying.

Challenges. Many nurse scientists have difficulty finding time to conduct their own research, are frustrated by colleagues’ limited knowledge and lack of time to engage in research and/or evidence-based practice projects, and encounter insufficient financial support for nursing research.

Education requirements. A terminal degree focusing on research, such as a PhD, provides the nurse scientist with the knowledge and skills of the research process, as well as evidence-based practice. Nurse scientists can become certified clinical research professionals through the Society of Clinical Research Associates.

Professional associations. Many nurse scientists are members of nursing associations dedicated to research, such as the Southern, Western, Midwest, and Eastern Nursing Research Societies. They also may be members of research or scientific committees of organizations.

Bottom line. “Nurse scientists promote, support, and facilitate clinical inquiry through research and evidence-based practice, advancing the art and science of nursing.”

Susan B. Fowler is a nurse scientist in the center for nursing research at Orlando Health in Florida.

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