Florence Nightingale first discussed the importance of applying a research base to nursing practice during the Crimean War. She maintained that practice needed to be up to date and based on the best current research findings available. Unfortunately, for many years afterwards, only minimal reference to nursing research could be found in the nursing literature, and it was not until the 1950s that research reappeared on the nursing agenda.
At this time, several developments within the profession gave impetus to nursing research, including the increased number of nurses with advanced academic training, the development of the Nursing Research journal and the availability of funding to support nursing research (Polit and Hungler 1997). In 1972, the Briggs Report urged nurses to keep up to date with research and, as a result, the number of nurses involved in nursing research studies grew significantly. Nurses became key players in discussions relating to theoretical and contextual issues pertinent to their profession. As a consequence, the focus for research studies also changed, and nurses began to examine issues related to the development and improvement of patient care.
The past 20 years have seen growth in the number of nurse researchers, increased involvement of the nurse in research, easier access to research as information technology has developed, increased confidence in conducting research and an overall recognition that research is integral to nursing. Indeed, the status of research in healthcare has helped to place the nurse practitioner at the centre of a healthcare culture that strives for progress and seeks to establish research-based practice.
In essence, the future of nursing research looks, or should look, bright. Yet many argue that, in reality, few nurses actually use research as a basis for practice. They state that many nurses do not know what evidence is available...