RN-MSN Programs as a Path to Becoming a Research Nurse

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Nursing research, according to the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR):

  • Builds the scientific foundation for clinical practice
  • Prevents disease and disability
  • Manages and eliminates symptoms caused by illness
  • Enhances end-of-life and palliative care
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Therefore, research nurses advance nursing science by supporting research related to the science of health, which focuses on the promotion of health and the quality of life. Research nurses investigate any number of factors that affect health, including:

  • Psychological
  • Physiological
  • Genomic
  • Environmental
  • Familial
  • Societal
  • Cultural

They also research the impact of health promotion and self-management behavior within specific communities.

The Value of Nursing Research

Because there is arguably no other profession that is more integral and essential at every level of healthcare delivery than nursing, nurse researchers (also called nurse investigators) are best positioned to examine everything from symptom management in acute and chronic illnesses to preventive care and self-management strategies.

According to a 2010 John Hopkins University article, nurses, more than any other profession, “can see not just the scientific and medical outcomes but also the human results of treatment…” Therefore, nursing research is able to “provide specialized insights and discoveries that other healthcare research might miss.”

Nurse researchers are then able to translate their scientific findings into clinical practice, thus adding value to healthcare delivery and ensuring that nursing remains at the forefront of science as to benefit clinical practice and improve patients’ quality of life across the lifespan.

Nursing research, particularly when partnered with other healthcare research, takes advanced of a vast body of experiential and evidence-based knowledge and wisdom. In other words, nurse researchers are able to view the bigger picture, taking into account not only physiological factors, but psychological, social, and emotional factors, as well.

The NINR recognizes that new findings in nursing science continue to improve the understanding, promotion, and management of healthcare across the lifespan.

How to Become an MSN Research Nurse

The path to becoming a nurse researcher begins with completing a pre-licensure registered nurse (RN) program, passing the NCLEX-RN, and becoming state licensed as an RN. From there, RNs interested in a job in nursing research typically earn both a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

Although nurse scientists are doctorate-prepared nurses, MSN nurses also play an integral part in nursing research. The AACN recognizes master’s-prepared nurses as being able to perform a wide array of research duties, such as:

  • Evaluating research findings
  • Developing and implementing evidence-based practice guidelines
  • Forming and leading research teams within agencies and professional groups
  • Identifying practice and systems problems that require study
  • Collaborating with scientists to initiate research

RN to MSN Programs in Nursing Research

MSN degree programs in areas such as nursing research and clinical research management allow RNs to advance their nursing career by learning skills associate with the diverse and complex field of clinical nursing research. An MSN in Nursing Research provides students with a solid foundation in clinical research, the regulatory and ethical aspects of research, and the overall management of clinical drug, biological, and medical device trials.

In the past, licensed RNs who possessed a pre-licensure nursing diploma or Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) had to complete a BSN program before they could pursue an MSN. However, today’s RNs are afforded the opportunity complete an RN to MSN program in nurse research, a hybrid program designed for the licensed RN that culminates in both a BSN and MSN.

RN to MSN programs, unlike traditional BSN and MSN programs, take less time to complete because they take into account the nurse’s previous education and work experience for advanced placement. In fact, most students entering RN to MSN programs in nurse research are able to transfer a number of undergraduate and pre-nursing credits, thereby saving them time and eliminating the need to retake these courses as to satisfy their undergraduate requirements.

Graduate core requirements of an RN to MSN program in nurse research are designed to deliver a number of key competencies, which enable students to:

  • Understand and apply scientific principles of research
  • Apply ethical principles and meet regulatory requirements
  • Systemically implement research protocol and maintain the integrity of the research
  • Apply knowledge of data management, scientific communication, and information management
  • Demonstrate professionalism and accountability in research studies
  • Apply management and leadership principles as to support the research team

Graduates of RN to MSN degrees in nursing research are prepared to create, test, and implement ideas that are designed to improve healthcare and advance the nursing profession.

MSN Research Nurse Jobs and Salary Expectations

Master’s-prepared nurse researchers may work in a wide array of healthcare settings, research organizations, laboratories, and universities, among others. Many MSN nurse researchers also work for non-profit organizations and private companies that are focused on healthcare issues. Some of the largest settings for nursing research include:

MSN nurse researchers are some of the highest paid nurses, according to a popular nursing industry magazine. The Society of Clinical Research Associates, in their 2010 salary survey, reported that nurse researchers with master’s degrees earned a median, annual salary of $67,857, an increase from $55,851 in 2004.

Median salaries for nurse researchers, according to the Society of Clinical Research Associates, varied depending on work setting:

  • Pharmaceutical company: $91,595
  • Contractor/self-employed consultant: $90,000
  • Biotech company: $89,773
  • Medical device company: $88,355
  • Government: $82,813
  • Contract research organization: $73,636
  • Academic organization: $56,737
  • Hospital: $55,756
  • Independent research site: $55,769
  • Physician-based practice: $51,975

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