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Physician-Scientist Workforce (PSW) Report 2014

Qualitative Research Findings Related to Nurse-Scientists

Qualitative research conducted on behalf of the PSW-WG (see Appendix V) included interviews with three nurse-scientists with K23 awards. These individuals had each worked as a clinical nurse or clinical nurse specialist before going back to school to earn a PhD. Thus, they were in their 40s or 50s when they received their K awards.

These respondents asserted that a 3-year K award is too short of a time frame to get a research project up and running, collect and analyze data, and then write and get manuscripts accepted in journals so that they can write a competitive application for an R01. These nurse-scientists also said they needed more support through the K award for lab equipment, lab space, and lab assistants.

The respondents indicated that they needed to carry a large teaching load to make up for salary deficits from grant funding. This can make it difficult to keep their research projects moving forward. However, as one stated: "Nurses who want a research career are tied to academia. Some large hospitals are doing some nursing research, but not as much."

All liked the idea of team science. They felt they were in a collegial atmosphere where team science works well.

Work/life balance was definitely top of mind for those with children currently at home. However, they also noted that they have support from their colleagues and are able to resolve any work/life balance issues that may arise.

In January 2014 the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) conducted an open-ended survey of a purposive sample of nine deans of nursing schools with research-focused training programs. The purpose of the survey was to gather information regarding the experiences of schools of nursing in training successful nurse-scientists. The key findings were:

  • NINR funding allowed schools of nursing to attract more competitive trainees and recruit junior research faculty with high potential for developing funded programs of research.
  • Schools equated trainee success with peer-reviewed publications, subsequent research funding, and post-training research positions.
  • Research experiences for trainees ranged from required “research residencies” to working on mentor’s studies.
  • Interdisciplinary research and collaborations are encouraged at all schools.
  • Salaries for registered nurses are significantly higher than training stipends. Since NRSA and T32 grants have restrictions on outside work while providing low stipends, many pre-doctoral and post-doctoral students opt not to apply for these training grants.