A road to be traveled earlier rather than later: Message from the President

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As nurse scientists, we conduct research that improves the field of nursing and patient outcomes. We design studies, analyze data, and report the results. We make discoveries with direct impact on the lives of patients, policy, and the healthcare system. Although this nursing specialty can be demanding and high‐pressure, it also can be one of the most rewarding career paths one could choose. So, when an undergraduate nursing student mentee asked me about such a career, I pondered a bit about the path she should take. She had been given conflicting advice about how to get to the endpoint of becoming a nurse scientist.
A faculty colleague had advised her to follow a traditional path that even I had followed years ago. The traditional career path goes something like this: the student attends an undergraduate nursing program and earns a baccalaureate degree in nursing, works in a clinical setting for five or more years, returns to school for a master's degree, heads back into the workforce for several years, and then goes on to obtain a doctorate in nursing late in the career. In the past, PhD candidates were often in their 40 or 50s (as I was), which doesn't leave much time to build a research program and contribute to the scientific basis of nursing practice.
Moreover, previous generations of nurses viewed doing PhD‐level research as removing oneself from patient care and working only in the halls of academia. Nothing however could be further from the truth! Nursing research is being conducted in acute and long‐term care facilities, patients’ homes, communities, industries, and laboratories.
As we come into contact with students who can handle challenging clinical situations, have developed sound problem‐solving and decision‐making skills, are resourceful and eager to find solutions to problems, and do not back down from a challenge or failure, we need to expose them to the world of nursing research as a specialty. We must help them visualize a future in which they have an impact on our profession and the lives of our patients. We need to actively recruit these students early during their academic preparation and initial careers in nursing, and mentor them to become nurse scientists who possess the skills and knowledge to lead a research team, collaborate, and establish partnerships with other scientists.
The Southern Nursing Research Society (SNRS) commends nursing schools that bring undergraduate and graduate students to our annual conference. Involving students in SNRS can kindle a passion that advances their educational preparation. The conference atmosphere among all levels of nurse scientists can ignite students’ excitement and foster curiosity about research. Student membership is open to all levels of students. SNRS is developing strategies to ensure continued involvement and enhanced services to students interested in a career in research. Involvement in our student network and research interest groups and networking opportunities with nationally recognized nurse scientists foster future researchers’ role development.
My advice to my student mentee is to travel this wonderful academic road sooner than later, to be able to relish a long and fruitful research career. I look forward to seeing this bright, articulate student with other accomplished students at our annual meeting in Atlanta in February 2018.
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