Is the nursing profession really research-based?*


  • James P. Smith B.Sc.(Soc.) D.E.R. S.R.N. R.N.T. B.T.A. Certificate, F.R.C.N. F.R.S.H.

    1. District Nursing Officer, Brent Health District, London and Editor of the Journal of Advanced Nursing
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  • *

    Based on the concluding paper read at the 56 th Annual Conference for Gloucester nurses midwives and health visitors, held 8–10 May 1978.


Modern nursing has its origins in the pioneering research of Florence Nightingale but a research approach to nursing problems was never transmitted as part of the traditions of the Nightingale pattern of nurse training.

Although nurses in North America established nursing education programmes in centres of higher education as long ago as 1899, British nurses did not utilize these facilities until the 1950s. This militated against the proper preparation of British nurses for research and the innovation of nursing research activities was therefore drastically delayed in the United Kingdom.

Such research as there was tended to focus on nurses rather than nursing. The Royal College of Nursing of the United Kingdom, together with the Department of Health and Social Security, London, sponsored a number of nursing care research projects in the late 1960s. This was followed, in the 1970s, by an upsurge of research interest and research activity among British nurses. But it is still very difficult to demonstrate any direct benefits from nursing research interest or activity on patient care. There are also problems associated with the lack of experimental and replicated studies, the dearth of research-minded nurses and the apparent lack of interest in implementing nursing research findings. This places a great responsibility on the teachers of nurses.

Hope is on the horizon. This is fostered by recent syllabuses and guides produced by British statutory bodies responsible for basic and postbasic nursing research.

In conclusion, the author argues that nursing research activity should not be permitted to become an end in itself. The search for a research base for nursing should be motivated primarily by a desire to achieve better nursing practice.