In 1976, the American Nurses' Association Commission on Nursing Research recommended the inclusion of research content in undergraduate nursing education (Wilson, 1989). Since that time, baccalaureate programs (Thomas & Price, 1980) and some diploma and associate degree programs have incorporated research courses and research content into their curricula. The question about how to teach this content effectively is now assuming greater importance (Levin, 1988; Renner, 1989).
Levin ( 1988) suggested the use of role play to allow the student to experience problems in research utilization. Renner (1989) described library visits, reviews of selected studies, research presentation, and dialogue with researchers as strategies to involve students.
My observations led me to conclude that students coming into a graduate program frequently did not expect to take a research course. They came back to school to be a "better nurse" and did not see the connection between the research course and their goal. They viewed the course as a "requirement" and something to take to do a thesis.
To make the connection between their goal and the course more clear to them, field trips were organized to the researchactive department of nursing at the University of Utah Hospital. Nursing studies were conducted on various nursing units, and there were efforts to base policies and procedures on nursing research findings. Activities in both conduct and use of research were planned for the students.
At the beginning of the term, the field trips were explained to the students. One 2-hour lecture was canceled and two 1hour field trips were selected instead, one on the conduct and one on the use of research.
The conduct field trips were to three clinical areas that paralleled the students' potential graduate school interests. The rehabilitation unit nurses had recently received federal funding for a study on the decontamination of urinary drainage bags. One of the transport nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit was conducting several studies on transported neonates, positioning, methods of inserting umbilical artery catheters, and the relationship between blood gases and transcutaneous monitoring at high altitudes. The third area was the operating room and postanesthesia care units, where administrative and psychological studies were in progress. The principal investigators of the studies described the research process from identification of a problem to obtaining funding or the conduct of the study. The implementation of each step, the frustration and problems encountered, and problem resolution were discussed. Inclusion of staff nurses provided evidence of the feasibility of nursing research and its acceptance and implementation by staff nurses.
Research-use field trips were of two types. One type was to an individual who was using research in formulation of unit or institutional policies. The clinical specialist in the rehabilitation unit had reviewed the research on urinary drainage equipment for her study and was developing guidelines for care in the rehabilitation unit. A staff development instructor was developing an intravenous therapy manual incorporating research.
The other type of research use experience was to participate in a journal club. The ongoing journal club is attended by the clinical specialists and other nurses from staff development or patient education. Topics selected were at the interest of the participante, e.g., the use of heparin in intravenous lines. Students participated in the critique of the selected articles. This experience was highly valued by the students and was selected by the first students who registered for the field trips. One student volunteered to attend a journal club although she had already attended one research-use session because the topic was an issue in the unit in which she worked.
There were 56 students enrolled in the course. The majority were able to attend at least one of the field trips but several students had to be rescheduled.
A Value of Nursing Research Field Trips Survey was developed to assess the students' responses. The students were asked to rate the effect of the field trips on several topics on a scale from one (strongly agree) to five (strongly disagree). Comments were allowed throughout the instrument.
Toward the end of the quarter, when all the field trips were completed, an evaluation form was distributed during class and completed by the students. The instructor responsible for the field tripe was not present.
Forty-two students returned the evaluation form for a response rate of 75%. Some of the nonrespondents may not have been present in class that day and some may not have attended one or more field trips because of scheduling difficulties.
The responses to the field trip were highly positive. When the agree categories were collapsed, 90.5% of the students thought it was a worthwhile use of class time. "Very helpful - it knitted together the didactic information and infused enthusiasm for research in a clinical setting. I enjoyed them."
One major goal of the activity was to provide the students with role models so that they could visualize themselves participating in research. Students thought that the trips helped them to see research as a plausible activity both for staff nurses in the work setting (88.1%) and for themselves (83.3%). One student wrote, "[They] allowed me to observe actual research being conducted in a clinical setting. Helped me to understand that research does not have to be an overwhelming process." Another commented, "I can think of a few studies I would like to do at my hospital after I finish my MS and return home."
The field trips helped the majority of students to see both the importance of research for nursing (83.5%), and the uses of research in practice (88.1%). "Yes, helped attitude toward implementation of research, and specifically demonstrated value of nursing research."
Other student comments were about the reality of the field trips. "... It made the written word [from the textbook] come alive." "Was very interesting to learn of the real life problems and obstacles in getting a research study 'off the ground.' Put all the theory into a realistic perspective." ". . . helped me realize that what we are learning in class is actually how research is conducted."
The scheduling of the field trips was at the convenience of the nursing staff involved. Since many of the students were working, it was difficult for them to change their schedules to accommodate the variety of times chosen for the field trips. It was possible that a student may not have been able to choose on the basis of topic; a few may have had to choose on the basis of schedule. At the last minute some students needed to reschedule and new arrangements were attempted. Despite these obstacles, the students were extremely positive about the experiences. The obstacles may provide an explanation about the reduced response rate. Those students who were not able to reschedule one or both trips would have been less inclined to complete the evaluation.
The students identify with the nurses in the hospital rather than the instructors in the course. They saw the nurses as "real" rather than the instructors. "Someone out there in the nursing real world does research." The nurses were able to have an effect that faculty, despite their own involvement in research, could not have had.
- Levin, R.F. (1988). Strategies for teaching nursing research: Role-play to simulate application of research findings. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 10, 782-785.
- Renner, C. ( 1989). Researching research: A method for promoting positive attitudes. Applied Nursing Research, 2(1), 2-5.
- Thomas, B., & Price, M.D. (1980). Research preparation in baccalaureate nursing education. Nursing Research, 29, 259-261.
- Wilson, H.S. (1989). Research in nursing. (2nd ed.). Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley Publishing.