Socializing Students: Toward a Career in Nursing Research. (Socialization for Research)

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT As the number of students entering nursing programs declines and as graduate education focuses on advanced practice, the number of undergraduates who aspire to careers as nurse researchers is seriously compromised. This article describes three examples of how undergraduate nursing students at a historically black college and university were cultivated as future researchers through focused research experiences. The first project employed faculty-student collaboration with a community coalition on environmental justice. Students increased their awareness of environmental health and large-scale survey methodology by participating in a telephone survey of community residents. The second project, a replication of an earlier study, determined compliance with a health advisory and awareness of contamination in the fish supply among persons fishing in a contaminated river. The project was extended in a second course and focused on student-faculty preparation of manuscripts. The third project was a pilot program to foster research as a career among nurses from minority groups. Through a partnership with a research-intensive university, a six-week summer research immersion experience was created for undergraduate nursing students. The impact on the nursing programs and on the intended career pathways of students is described.

NOTWITHSTANDING FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE'S RESEARCH HYPOTHESES REGARDING THE ROLE OF FRESH AIR AND SUNSHINE IN COMBATING INFECTIONS, NURSING RESEARCH IS A RELATIVELY NEW PHENOMENON IN THE PROFESSION. Organized nursing research was not prominent until the 1950s (1). In 1985, the National Center for Nursing Research was established at the National Institutes of Health as the focal point for federally funded nursing research through Public Law 99-158 (2). Renamed the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), its mandate is to provide the research preparation required to generate knowledge relevant to nursing practice and to advance the profession and the health care of individuals, families, and communities (3).

A research career is not a typical first choice among nursing students. Although the exact number of established nurse researchers or nurses preparing for careers as nurse researchers is unknown, it is certain that the number of persons now being prepared is inadequate to address critical nursing and health care issues, Doctoral education and postdoctoral research are essential steps in the development of nurse scientists, but current enrollment in doctoral and postdoctoral programs accounts for fewer than 3,000 nurses, or 2.9 percent of nursing school enrollment (4).

The problem of too few nurse researchers is bleaker when one considers the number of minority nurse scientists. Minority participation in doctoral and postdoctoral programs accounts for approximately 18 percent of the total number of students in such programs (4), in contrast to 27.8 percent minority representation in the total population (5). Federal initiatives, such as those supported through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are directed toward increasing the number of underrepresented minority scientists participating in biomedical and behavioral research (6). Correspondingly, a strategic goal of the NINR is to enhance mentorship, training, and re. search opportunities for minority students and researchers (7).

Howard University is a 135-year-old historically black college and university (HBCU) and the only research-intensive university among the HBCUs. It is the leading producer of African Americans with PhDs in the nation. Through teaching and research, the university is committed to "seek solutions to human and social problems in the United States and throughout the world" (8).

Reaffirming its commitment to place more graduates in the academic pipeline who will earn doctorates in nursing and select nursing research as a career, the Howard University Division of Nursing has promoted research as a possible career choice in the undergraduate curriculum. …