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Remote nursing research tips

8 Apr 2024

Are you interested in undertaking research in the remote healthcare sector? We invited six nurses with research experience to answer your burning questions.

How should I select my research topic? 

When doing any research, whether as a short project or for a lengthy PhD, it is impor­tant to direct your focus to an issue that you find inter­est­ing (bet­ter still, one you are pas­sion­ate about), and that you think would allow new knowl­edge about that issue to be generated.

A bit like Goldilocks, you need to ensure that your top­ic is not too broad but not too nar­row. If the top­ic is too broad, there may be too much infor­ma­tion to con­sid­er, which can be over­whelm­ing, and if too nar­row, not much at all! Be flex­i­ble and con­sid­er the aspects of the top­ic that inter­est you to help to refine it to a more man­age­able size.

Talk­ing to pro­fes­sion­al crit­i­cal” friends or peers may help you to gain the focus you need, that sweet spot”, that will pro­vide the scaf­fold­ing for your research ques­tion and ini­tial lit­er­a­ture review. 

Dr Ann Aitken PhD

Should an under­grad­u­ate jump straight into research or gain expe­ri­ence first? 

I think stu­dents and new grad­u­ates should be involved in research as par­tic­i­pants (we need to under­stand their expe­ri­ences) and as assistants.

Under­grad­u­ates have well devel­oped skills in lit­er­a­ture search­ing and writ­ing and they can facil­i­tate the col­lec­tion of data and assist with analysis.

Real-world expe­ri­ence is often ben­e­fi­cial in a prac­tice-based pro­fes­sion such as ours but skills in research can be devel­oped inde­pen­dent­ly. After all, research is about pre­sent­ing data that reflects the par­tic­i­pants’ per­spec­tives rather than the researcher’s.

Dr Kylie McCul­lough PhD

The world of prac­tice is very dif­fer­ent to the world of research – if I’m new to research, how can I devel­op a research skill set?

I would argue that evi­dence-based prac­tice shows that clin­i­cal prac­tice and research are not that dis­sim­i­lar. As no two patients/​clients/​consumers/​communities are the same, any inter­ven­tions or treat­ments we use are not based on a gut feel­ing but an under­stand­ing of research. 

A clin­i­cian want­i­ng to move into for­mal research will like­ly find it eas­i­er to use true clin­i­cal prob­lems to gen­er­ate research ques­tions and projects. Method­olo­gies that involve clin­i­cal part­ner­ships, with trans­la­tion­al inter­ven­tion focus and mea­sure­ments of out­comes, work well with clin­i­cal prac­tice questions. 

Hav­ing prac­ti­tion­er and con­sumer involve­ment in the design and con­duct­ing of the research is cru­cial, so look at action research, nom­i­nal group tech­nique and the like. Start small to find your feet and work with an expe­ri­enced researcher as a guide or mentor.

Many health ser­vices have research staff who can help, or you can ask aca­d­e­mics at your local uni­ver­si­ty. Most are very hap­py to sup­port begin­ning researchers.

Dr Matthew Mason PhD

The path­way into research is not always well under­stood – as a nurse, how can I under­take research as part of a Mas­ters degree? 

My under­stand­ing of the path­ways into research is that you can enrol in a mas­ters with a research major (such as an MPhil), or do a Grad Cert of Research Meth­ods then go straight into a PhD. 

I’ve met many incred­i­bly ded­i­cat­ed and pas­sion­ate health pro­fes­sion­als who work full time in their clin­i­cal roles while doing an MPhil or PhD in their own time. How­ev­er, if you’re like me and recoil in hor­ror at the thought of com­mit­ting four to eight years of your elu­sive free time’ to a project, anoth­er option is to find employ­ment as a research offi­cer and use the research project you’re car­ry­ing out for your employ­er as your MPhil thesis. 

My main tip is that research is hard work but reward­ing, so make sure you choose a top­ic that you’re pas­sion­ate about!

Lau­ra Wright

What is the career path­way for a nurse and/​or mid­wife who would like to estab­lish a research career in the remote health sec­tor? Any advice to aspir­ing nurses/​midwives?

Remote area work is full of unan­swered ques­tions. Research that is based in indus­try asks tan­gi­ble, real life ques­tions. Remote prac­ti­tion­ers who want to answer ques­tions can do so with­in a range of path­ways includ­ing hon­ours (one year full time, two years part time), mas­ters by research (or tra­di­tion­al­ly known as mas­ters of phi­los­o­phy) – 18 months to two years full time and dou­ble that part time. Or of course a PhD. There are also course work mas­ters that give stu­dents the option of doing a small research project. The biggest chal­lenge is to find a uni­ver­si­ty and a super­vi­sor who will sup­port your top­ic or area of inter­est and have time and capac­i­ty to sup­port the student.

Find some­thing you are pas­sion­ate about. If you want a PhD the best route is via an hon­ours degree and try to get a pub­li­ca­tion with you as first author. If you have hon­ours (1st class or 2A) and a pub­li­ca­tion as first author, you are more like­ly to get a schol­ar­ship to do a PhD.

Pro­fes­sor Sue Kruske

What is the path­way for a nurse or mid­wife under­tak­ing a PhD? Do you have any advice for nurses/​midwives?

I’m an RN and I gained entry to a PhD through an inte­grat­ed PhD path­way at Edith Cow­an Uni­ver­si­ty. The inte­grat­ed course­work pre­pares you to be a researcher and then fin­ish­es up with a research project that sets you up for entry into your PhD. Anoth­er path­way is doing a mas­ters of phi­los­o­phy first.

My pri­ma­ry super­vi­sor said at the begin­ning of the jour­ney that PhDs aren’t about intel­li­gence. Peo­ple who com­plete are per­sis­tent. I still need to work full time and care for my fam­i­ly so I am being real­is­tic and doing my PhD part time over a very long duration. 

Fiona Hilde­brand

Addi­tion­al research advice

Know the con­text. Try before you research. If you want to focus on rur­al areas in your research, try nurs­ing in a rur­al area – try a few rur­al areas. 

Do the same if you are inter­est­ed in remote nurs­ing research. The per­spec­tive will be valuable.

Under­stand the context’s impact on prac­tice and your research. Metro, rur­al, and remote are not the same, nor is the work sec­tor or setting.

The results from one set­ting are unlike­ly to apply to all oth­er set­tings. You may need to adapt your research ques­tion or strategy.

Con­sid­er your ques­tion. Bal­ance your curios­i­ty with its poten­tial impact when con­sid­er­ing your research. If your research focus is recog­nised by poten­tial par­tic­i­pants as impor­tant to them, their prac­tice, and the health of their com­mu­ni­ties, you will attract more par­tic­i­pants. If you want your research to trans­late into action and change, your ques­tion should also address a need.

Ask your rur­al or remote col­leagues what areas they con­sid­er research pri­or­i­ties. CRANAplus Pro­fes­sion­al Ser­vices can also assist you in iden­ti­fy­ing some areas of research need (there are quite a few), and when you are ready, pro­mote your research to Members.