This year marks the 30th anniversary of NINR’s commitment to supporting research on health and illness across the lifespan. NINR’s founding 30 years ago acknowledged what was already clear to those who had advocated for its creation: that nurse scientists had been, and would increasingly be, major players in addressing health challenges then and in the future.

NINR supports and conducts clinical and basic research and research training to build the scientific foundation for clinical practice, prevent disease and disability, manage and eliminate symptoms caused by illness, and improve palliative and end-of-life care. The Institute’s focus on clinical interventions in wellness and quality of life—across the lifespan and spectrum of disease—plays a critical role in the health research enterprise by bridging the gaps between bench science, clinical care, and communities. Nurse scientists are in pivotal positions in the transformation of health care science; they have become essential leaders and participants in cross-disciplinary team science, designing and testing solutions for a broad range of health care issues, and building a scientific foundation for clinical practice.

With NINR’s support over these past 30 years, nurse scientists have made discoveries that have contributed to advances in our Nation’s health and wellness. Because of nursing research:

  • There is a program to educate parents of premature infants so they can better care for their own children.
  • Doctors and nurses taking care of a dying patient in an intensive care unit can communicate better with family members.
  • New technologies can help older adults manage their health and remain independent.

This anniversary year, however, is not just for looking back at all that has been accomplished. This year is also an opportunity to look ahead to the future of the Institute and its support of nursing science.

The NINR Innovative Questions (IQ) Initiative, begun in 2013, is playing an important role in the Institute’s strategic planning. Through the IQ Initiative, NINR conducted a dialogue with its stakeholders in the scientific community, professional organizations, and the public to identify new thinking and creativity in nursing science, explore unanswered questions, promote results-oriented research, and guide the science of the Institute in the coming years.

The questions developed in response to the IQ Initiative, organized around the key themes of NINR’s strategic plan—Symptom Science, Wellness, Self-Management, End-of-Life and Palliative Care, and Innovation and Technology—can be found on the IQ web page. We hope these questions will serve as a valuable resource to everyone in the nurse scientist community in considering future directions for their own programs of research.

In addition to seeking out new avenues for research, we remain committed to the foundational research conducted by nurse scientists that NINR has supported. This research has greatly enhanced our understanding of the mechanisms of health and illness—and we know that nurses are uniquely positioned to understand how these mechanisms can impact the health of individuals and their communities.

For instance, NINR supports nurse scientists in the extramural community, as well as a thriving group of intramural researchers, who seek to understand symptoms and symptom clusters—such as pain, fatigue, impaired sleep, and depression—to improve clinical management of illness and ultimately allow their patients to lead more productive lives. Similarly, innovative technologies play a critical role in advancing health care, and nursing science can provide the foundation for their development.

Additionally, as the lead NIH Institute for end-of-life research, NINR has a special emphasis on supporting science to assist individuals, families, and health care professionals in managing the symptoms of life-limiting conditions and planning for end-of-life decisions.

However, none of these areas of research will benefit from the vital knowledge and diverse perspectives that nursing can bring to the field without a strong cadre of nurse scientists. To support and grow this workforce, NINR continues its intramural and extramural activities to ensure excellence in the next generation of nurse scientists.

All of NINR’s support of clinical research—both extramural and intramural—contributes to the evidence base for science-driven practice across the healthcare field to manage and prevent illness, and to promote health and wellness.

NINR used such evidence-based practices in developing its Palliative Care: Conversations Matter® campaign. This communications campaign aims to increase the use of palliative care—treatment that can reduce pain and other distressing symptoms—for children with serious illness. In spite of the known benefits of palliative care, many health care providers hesitate to recommend palliative care for their youngest patients. To address this issue, NINR brought together parents, palliative care clinicians, and scientists to determine what should be included in such a campaign. NINR then designed materials to help families understand palliative care and its benefits, and also to help providers initiate conversations on palliative care and continue these discussions throughout a child’s illness.

Remarkable accomplishments have been made by nurse scientists since NINR’s inception. In observance of these accomplishments in the past 30 years, and in anticipation of the great strides nursing science stands to make in the years ahead, I invite you to join us at the upcoming lectures, workshops, and other events that NINR will host during our anniversary year—which began with our Advancing Science, Improving Lives Scientific Symposium on October 13, 2015.

It is an exciting time for nursing science. As we reflect on the past 30 years of NINR support for the field, I look forward to the future and what we can achieve together to advance the health and improve the quality of life of our fellow citizens.

Patricia A. Grady, PhD, RN, FAAN
Director
National Institute of Nursing Research
National Institutes of Health