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Celebrating National Nurses Week, May 6-12, 2019

May 4, 2019

The nursing community, including nursing science, is notable for its breadth and depth of experience, as well as its contributions to education, research, and advancing evidence-based practice. For over a decade, public polls have indicated that nurses are the most trusted of all professionals [1]. Nurses are the health care providers that have the most direct contact with patients and their families. As a result of demographic and policy changes, nurses are fulfilling more prominent and significant central roles within our healthcare system.

There is a collaborative relationship between clinical nurses and nurse scientists: clinical problems stimulate scientific investigation, and science advances inform evidence-based practice. Nursing science focuses on improving health outcomes of patients and their caregivers. It supports the health research enterprise by bridging gaps between the bench, the research clinic, and communities, and by translating science to clinical care.

The National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) supports scientists across the United States to conduct research in Symptom Science, Wellness, Self-Management, and End-of-Life and Palliative Care, and to train the next generation of nurse scientists. NINR’s work supports the practice of the over 3 million nurses in the United States, by developing the scientific evidence necessary for the advancement of clinical care. Rather than focusing on a single disease, condition or organ, NINR addresses the needs of patients, families and caregivers across the lifespan, health spectrum, and care settings.

For example, NINR-supported scientists have discovered biomarkers of neuronal damage in athletes and military personnel following traumatic brain injury, that may one day guide diagnostic and therapeutic development [2]. Other researchers have developed early palliative care interventions tailored to patients with newly diagnosed incurable cancer, leading to improvements in quality of life and mood outcomes [3].

Nurse scientists also have a strong tradition of focusing on reducing health disparities, partnering with vulnerable communities to recruit participants and achieve positive health outcomes. Findings from this research include identification of the substantial burden of out-of-pocket costs for rural breast cancer survivors [4] and observation of significantly less health care utilization by African Americans in comparison with Caucasian Americans after the 2009 recession [5].

We are very proud of the contribution that nursing science has made to improving health and to supporting the nursing field, and we are excited about what can be achieved in the future. But in order to protect that future, we must ensure the continued growth of the research workforce. However, recent data have shown that the number of students in PhD nursing programs has decreased [6]. Doctoral nursing programs are not producing enough nurse scientists, even though there is a need for highly educated nurses to meet the current healthcare challenges and growing demand for nursing faculty.

NINR’s training efforts focus on different stages of a research career, such as: training grants for full-time predoctoral and postdoctoral research training; participation of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and summer undergraduates in the NINR intramural laboratories; as well as NIH Research Supplements to Promote Diversity for groups under-represented in biomedical research. In addition, we support summer training programs on the NIH campus: our long running Summer Genetics Institute and the Methodologies Boot Camps. Through these NINR-sponsored training programs, nurse scientists are poised to keep pace with the latest techniques, initiatives, and innovations in science, and to educate the nursing workforce to become active participants, collaborators, and leaders in the transformation of health care.

Nursing and nursing science have contributed to tremendous improvements in health and quality of life and make a tremendous difference in the lives of patients and their loved ones. This is why we celebrate National Nurses Week.

Ann K. Cashion, PhD, RN, FAAN
Acting Director
National Institute of Nursing Research
National Institutes of Health

[3] El-Jawahri A, Greer JA, Pirl WF, Park ER, Jackson VA, Back AL, Kamdar M, Jacobsen J, Chittenden EH, Rinaldi SP, Gallagher ER, Eusebio JR, Fishman S, VanDusen H, Li Z, Muzikansky A, Temel JS. Effects of Early Integrated Palliative Care on Caregivers of Patients with Lung and Gastrointestinal Cancer: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Oncologist. 2017 Dec;22(12):1528-1534.

[4] Pisu M, Azuero A, Benz R, McNees P, Meneses K. Out-of-pocket costs and burden among rural breast cancer survivors. Cancer Med. 2017 Mar;6(3):572-581

[5] Travers JL, Cohen CC, Dick AW, Stone PW. The Great American Recession and forgone healthcare: Do widened disparities between African-Americans and Whites remain? PLoS One. 2017 Dec 27;12(12):e0189676.

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