This site is intended for health professionals only

Thank you for the … research nurses

In an evidence based profession like nursing, clinical research is a high priority but not always so easy to find. Una Adderley urges us to value our research minded colleagues and their contribution to the team

Sometimes it's really hard to keep the research flame alive in the NHS. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) informs registered nurses that they "must deliver care that is based on the best available evidence or best practice" and must ensure that any advice given "is evidence based" if they are suggesting healthcare products or services.1 However, this can be really tough to implement when the evidence doesn't exist or is difficult to access.

It can be hard to work out what is the best "evidence-based approach" to a clinical problem. If we are lucky there is an up-to-date set of NICE guidelines or a Royal College of Nurses (RCN) clinical guideline to point us in the right direction. (If we're really lucky there is a handy summary version at the beginning that tells us almost everything we need to know.) Failing that there are good quality websites, although sorting the wheat from the chaff presumes a certain amount of IT savvy and existing knowledge about evidence-based care.

What most of us do is "phone a friend", or to put a more clinical slant on it, we ask a colleague whose opinion we respect. This is a reasonable approach in a time-pressed organisation but it does assume that our colleague has the knowledge and skills that we lack. Seeking reassurance from someone who knows as little as us is, at best, a waste of time and, at worst, dangerous.

The irony is that as a profession we do not value the nurses who do possess the research skills. There is evidence that suggests that there is suspicion of the "academic" nurse, and yet these are the nurses who hold the golden key to the world of research. I can't be the only nurse who has heard colleagues state that degrees are a waste of time and that there really is no need for nurses to have higher academic qualifications.

While I thoroughly agree that a profession that is too busy reading research to attend to the bodily needs of its patients is a worrying prospect, we need to make sure that we still nurture those research skills within our profession.

This does not mean that we should require every nurse to have a Masters in Evidence Based Care. However, we do need nurses who understand both research and clinical issues to be playing a very active part in everyday clinical work. We shouldn't be threatened by our academically qualified colleagues but be grateful that they are willing to put in the hours to make sense of the esoteric world of research, and share that knowledge with the clinical team.

Go on, show a research nurse you care!