Nurse Researcher - How to Become a Nurse Researcher

Nurse Researcher

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Nurse Researcher Job Description

Unlike registered nurses or nurse educators, nurse researchers are scientists devoted to the study of the many different aspects of health care. The goal of the nurse researcher is to use the information they have acquired through their studies to improve the delivery of health care to patients. In addition to research pertaining directly to nursing, these researchers also study disease, health in general, and the outcome of health care post medical treatment.




Grants are one of the tools that nurse researchers employ in order to carry out their work, and grant writing is one of the skills that these researchers require in order to get the funding needed. Many nurse researchers work in colleges, universities, and hospitals and often combine their research with teaching. The results of the nurse researcher’s efforts are published in professional journals pertaining to nursing or medicine.

Those who become nurse researchers often begin their professional life as research assistants, clinical research monitors, or clinical data coordinators. The studies and research carried on by nurse researchers has direct bearing on a number of aspects of health care: how to more efficiently provide health care services, assuring patient safety and comfort, dealing with end of life issues with patients, helping patients with chronic health problems, and encouraging patients to engage in a healthier lifestyle.

Nurse researchers provide information on improving prenatal care, cancer treatment, pain management, and recovery from surgery.





Must manage time, job duties, people, and personal life efficiently. This is a super important skill to have because people will look to you for answers and direction, so you must be able to management the people under you and divide your time between the many facets of your life.


Must be able to teach and show others how to do what you know how to do. Part of your commitment to advancing science is to teach others how to do the same. If you're a professor or not, you must be able to teach.


You have to uphold the public's trust in you as a Nurse and a Researcher to deliver the best care and develop the best treatments and advances. You have people's lives in your hands, so you cannot mishandle that trust and responsibility.

Commitment to Advancing Science and Medicine

Must be focused on advancing medicine, improving procedures, and finding solutions to problems regarding specific illnesses or treatment regimine.


Must be dedicated to helping people. Basically everything you do is for the care and benefit of others, so if you don't like people, you probably would have a hard time doing this job. Plus, if your motivation is helping people, you could use that motivation to innovate medicine.


In your duties as a care provider, you will have to empathize and understand your patients. It will help you understand motivations and reasoning behind why certain things happen and help in determining directions for your research.

Commitment to Continuing Education

Must constantly be learning more and engaging in the scientific and medical community to stay current on and progress medical science. Many Nurse-Researchers have PhDs along with their medical credentials. You will be involved in academia so you will always be involved with learning.


Working Conditions


Not necessarily confined to one workplace setting, nurse researchers often find employment at hospitals, universities, laboratories, or research facilities. In many cases, a project will be self-limiting, especially if a grant has been provided for it. While some nurse researchers may have a permanent appointment, many nurse researchers travel from one project to the next. This is why competent grant writing should be looked on as a prerequisite for any nurse researcher.

Becoming a nurse researcher is the perfect career for those who enjoy delving through facts and data to arrive at a solution to a problem or a template for improved health care. Writing skills are needed for this career and the nurse researcher will not only provide articles and the results of studies to professional journals, but will also be called upon to address meetings and conferences.

Nurse researchers are among the most highly compensated in the nursing field, and often supplement their research income by contributing to textbooks, writing books of their own, or writing for medical, nursing, or healthcare publications.


How to Become a Nurse Researcher:


A bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), is the general prerequisite for becoming a Nurse Researcher as you will need to be a RN and have the schooling to advance. Most nurse researchers also acquire at least a master’s degree, and many go on to take a PhD in nursing as well. It has now become almost a requirement that a Nurse Researcher hold a Doctorate Degree.

This field of the nursing profession will appeal most to those who have a strong scientific background and enjoy the dedication necessary to conduct in-depth research and have the ability to draw conclusions from this research.


1. Earn an Associate's Degree (3 Years)


You can become an RN in three years through a nursing diploma program or associate degree program. Many community colleges offer Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs. Many new RNs will begin their education with an ADN program, then later advance to enrollment in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or master’s degree programs.

During your time you will take general education courses along with Anatomy, Nursing, Nutrition, Chemistry, and Microbiology. An ADN will allow you into entry-level nursing positions. 


2. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)


In order to become a nurse researcher, you will need a BSN degree to qualify for a master's program a few years later.

A conventional BSN program takes 4 years to complete. A popular movement now finds more and more colleges and universities offering students who already hold a bachelor’s in another field an accelerated route to nursing-program graduation. These accelerated BSN programs take between 12 to 18 months to complete. If you already have your RN from an associate's degree, you can do the RN-to-BSN program in 2 to 3 years, which can open you up to more opportunity and growth. 


3. Consider Earning a Master's Degree (3 Years)


It's not necessary to get your master's to be a practicing RN, but you need to get your Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN) to become a nurse researcher. Since you must get a doctoral degree for some jobs, this is a necessary step. 

There are programs available for an accelerated master’s degree (MSN), which takes about three years to complete. More and more RN-to-MSN and BSN-to-Ph.D. programs are being launched as a way to meet the increasing demand for more highly educated nurses in the workforce.

Another accelerated program is being offered by an increasing number of four-year institutions. These programs, called articulation agreements, are formed in collaboration with community and junior colleges to enable associate degree nurses or bachelor’s degree nurses to effortlessly transition into BSN and MSN programs.


4. Earn the Required Certification


Regardless of the type of entry into practice program you attend, all graduates must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam before they can practice as a registered nurse. The exam is administered by each state’s board of nursing. In order to take the test, you must first apply for your nursing license from your state board. Each state is different, so you must check to see if you meet all of the requirements for your state. 

The NCLEX covers the following:

  • Safe, effective care environment: Management care and safety and infection control

  • Psychosocial integrity: Coping and adaptation and psychosocial adaptation

  • Health promotion and maintenance: Growth and development through the life span and prevention and early detection of disease

  • Physiology integrity: Basic care and comfort, pharmacological and parenteral therapies, reduction of risk potential and physiological adaptation 

Related: Top 10 Best NCLEX-RN Review Books


5. Earn a Doctoral Degree (4-6 Years)


You will want to get a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing since your job will be mostly in research. The Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing is a research-based degree program that prepares you for teaching and researching. The program can last 4-5 years and prepares you to continuously build on your knowledge of Nursing.

The program places great emphasis on theory construction and research methods. It develops knowledge in special interest areas.   The Ph.D. in nursing, has a base of theory, science, and research that provides the prerequisite knowledge and expertise for the development, evaluation, and testing of theories in nursing.



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