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Physician-Scientist Workforce (PSW) Report 2014

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Chapter 4: Nurse-Scientists

Nurse-scientists occupy a unique and fundamental position in the health research enterprise. Nursing science provides the evidence base to support the practice of the largest healthcare profession, as well as to improve wellness and quality of life for all individuals. For example, Dr. Margaret Grey developed approaches to teaching adolescents the skills needed to successfully manage their diabetes; Dr. Loretta Sweet Jemmott pioneered ways to help young minority men and women reduce their risk for acquiring HIV; and Drs. Jon Levine and Christine Miaskowski increased medicine’s understanding of why men and women respond differently to pain medication. Given the rise in the incidence of long-term chronic illness, it is critically important that improving the quality of life for those with chronic illness remains a primary focus of nursing research. Nurse-scientists provide evidence-based strategies for maintaining wellness and preventing illness from occurring in the first place. The patient-centered, interdisciplinary field of nursing science plays a vital role in achieving this vision:

  • Nurse-scientists have improved clinical practice and patient outcomes through the development of interventions that have been implemented across the U.S. These interventions have included early child care programs, programs to reduce risk behaviors in adolescents, self-management strategies for chronic illnesses in youth and adults, and programs incorporating new technologies to enhance quality of life.
  • Health care policy and legislation have been influenced by nurses who serve as elected officials or staff in state and federal legislatures and by nurses who lead governmental agencies such as the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Nursing science has informed legislation and policy through studies that have tested transitional care models, and others that have documented the impact of nurse education and staffing levels on patient outcomes.

Research training and career development are critical elements to cultivate the next generation of nurse-scientists. To ensure continued advancements in science and improvements in health, it is essential that the scientific workforce of the future be innovative, multidisciplinary, and diverse. Nurse-scientist training programs are designed to achieve this vision. Improving research capacity in nursing science has been recognized as an essential component for improving health care and health systems. In 2011, for example, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, highlighting the importance of nursing science and capacity building for improving the health of the Nation.