Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Strategies for Engaging Undergraduate Nursing Students in Reading and Using Qualitative Research

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Strategies for Engaging Undergraduate Nursing Students in Reading and Using Qualitative Research

Article excerpt

Which nursing student comment from teaching or course evaluations would you prefer to receive?

"Oh man, research is dry. I have heard it is the most boring course in the program. How will this make me give better needles, give medications or get along better with physicians?"


"This is the best course I have ever taken. You have shown me how research can enhance our practice--something I had never expected to happen in a research course. Thank you for the fun classes because I WILL remember them."

Many nursing faculty have received these kinds of comments-as well as every variation in between. Research courses can be the most challenging undergraduate courses to teach in nursing programs because historically researchers have found that nursing students question and may struggle to recognize the importance of the research-practice link (Halcomb & Peters, 2009; Johnson et al., 2010; Mansour & Porter, 2008; McCurry & Martins, 2010; Walsh, Chang, Schmidt, & Yoepp, 2005). Integrating research into nursing curricula is essential to enhancing research literacy and to equipping nurses to undertake evidence-informed practice (Peckover & Winterburn, 2003), which is similar to many practiced disciplines in health and beyond.

In contemporary nursing practice, where evidence-informed practice is a minimal professional licensure expectation by professional nursing regulatory bodies, and where we strive to provide patients with the best possible care, it is essential that students are exposed to research in such a way that they can recognize the significance of using research to support their practice. Unfortunately, researchers continue to find that nursing students may grapple with "putting the pieces together." There are still significant challenges in assisting students to overcome cultural and conceptual barriers to research and to enhance their confidence in their ability to read and use research in their practice (Dobratz, 2003; Johnson et al., 2010; Meeker, Jones, & Flanagan, 2008).

It is frustrating to know how important and integral research is to professional nursing practice, and yet struggle to engage or communicate this to students. What is at the heart of the issue is to understand the reasons underlying both students' and faculty's challenges in learning and teaching research, and to find the most effective ways to stimulate and engage students to enhance the probability that the knowledge and skills gained persist beyond the final paper or examination. The purpose of this paper is to describe creative approaches that we have developed and used in an attempt at making our research courses more vibrant and applicable for undergraduate nursing students. We begin by exploring factors contributing to nursing students' perception that research is irrelevant to nursing practice and a lack of interest. We then describe some of the range of instructional approaches that have appeared in the literature to mitigate these factors. Finally, we will describe successful approaches that have helped our undergraduate nursing students as well as our colleagues become more comfortable with and knowledgeable about learning and teaching qualitative research.

Factors Contributing to Students' Attitudes toward Research

The sheer amount of new information, often a new way of thinking (qualitative inductive approaches may seem to contradict the traditional "scientific" or deductive process initially learned in secondary education), all with new language, can be overwhelming. Attitudes toward the idea of reading research may also be biased by a statistics/math phobia (O'Connor & O'Neill, 2004; Sternberger, 2002). As has been described by Rash (2005), a research course " seldom a course students eagerly anticipate" (p. 477).

Research jargon remains a significant barrier to engaging students. Students are immersed in learning the language of nursing and health care, and starting to learn what seems to be an entirely new realm of language can be overpowering (Polit & Beck, 2010). …

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