Nurse researchers work in hospitals, medical clinics and research laboratories to conduct research at a nursing level. They create and design their own studies and seek out and analyze data within those studies before reporting and sometimes publishing results. This is a highly specific category of nursing with various additional training in research methodology and tools used to perform research. The data collected can be used to save the lives of patients and make medical professionals’ lives easier on the job.
The Different Education Pathways
To become a nurse researcher, one of the following forms of education must be completed:
- Diploma: Most states don’t allow a diploma to be the basic level of education for a nurse researcher because it requires a graduate or doctorate level degree.
- Associate Degree: A two-year associate degree may be used towards the education of a nurse researcher career if a bridge program from RN to BSN is completed once associate degree graduates have become registered nurses and completed the NCLEX-RN licensure examination.
- Undergraduate Degree: A four-year university Bachelor of Science in nursing degree must be obtained as the base level of education for a nurse research position. This undergraduate degree will lead into a Master of Science in nursing and a possible Ph.D. Courses taken on during this program include pharmacology, biology, chemistry, microbiology, and a practical hands on experience.
- Graduate Degree: A MSN specialization may be obtained following graduation from a baccalaureate degree program and at least one year of 1000 hours of experience as a registered nurse. During this time, additional training and hands on experience will be gained with more research-oriented courses being obtained.
- Doctorate Degree: A Doctor of Nursing Practice or a Ph.D. in nursing are the final levels of education to be obtained for a nurse researcher. A Ph.D. student may gain paid experience and earn additional educational experience while completing the degree. This degree may take an additional 1-3 years after the completion of a graduate level program depending on which doctorate level degree is selected and the specifications of the coursework.
Some institutions allow for online learning during the graduate level programs for this career path, while others are stricter on in-class learning. Nurse researchers may not perform as many hands-on tasks as other forms of nursing, but they have a general background as a registered nurse, which means that the same foundation of nursing must be earned before continuing into their selected career path.
The NCLEX-RN national licensure examination must be passed in order to work as a nurse within the United States. Additional levels of certification may be required depending on what state and medical facility you choose to work through.
Prerequisites for Study
A minimum prerequisite of a 2.0 GPA is required for students from high school entering into an undergraduate level education. A 3.0 GPA may be required for graduate level programs, or universities with higher standards for learning.
Accreditation is an important factor in choosing a nursing school; The United States Department of Education, The Accreditation Commission for the Education of Nurses, or The American Association of Colleges of Nursing are good resources for more information on whether or not your educational facility is accredited.
Getting Certified as a Nurse Researcher
The NCLEX-RN national licensure examination must be passed in order to work as a nurse within the United States. Additional levels of certification may be required depending on what state and medical facility you choose to work through. The categories used to determine whether or not a nurse meets the qualifications to work within the research field are decided nationally and include the following criteria:
1. Safety within the environment in which patients are under care.
2. Psychological integrity as proven through adaptability and coping strategies.
3. Illness and injury prevention using health maintenance and promotional methods.
4. Physiological integrity as displayed through physical care and comfort.
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The Cost of Becoming a Nurse Researcher
The cost of tuition for nurse research positions varies throughout each state and educational facility. It also fluctuates based on which academic program is being completed. University admissions offices have information on these rates, and may be able to better direct you toward exact prices.
Scholarships for Nurse Researchers
Financial aid can be found through grants, student loads and scholarships. One scholarship that nurse research students may wish to apply for is the After College AACN Scholarship Fund, which provides $10,000 to a student pursuing professional nursing.
Working as a Nurse Researcher
- Training and Care: Nurse Researchers obtain specialized training in informatics, data collection, scientific research, and research equipment. They may obtain a more intense level of medical terminology and understanding of other forms of medical information.
- Job Outlook: The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics declares nurse researchers as a specialized form of registered nursing, which provides a 19% growth rate by the year 2022 as predicted by the BLS. This is a faster than average rate of growth among many industries across the United States.
- Rate of Pay: Education Portal reports the annual median earnings of a nurse researcher as being $67,930, although this may vary depending on level of education and experience achieved.