Funding for Nursing Education Research: Where Is It?

Posted on April 4, 2012 by

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In conversation today, it came up that I should be seeking funding for researching the outcomes of my work with developing a holistic-caring-integral curriculum with our RN- BSN students. I have applied for nursing education research grants before, worked with the school’s grant writer, and have yet to procure funding for looking at our program outcomes. I assume that what limited funds are available for looking at nursing education outcomes and innovations are sought with great competition. A small state school such as mine, that is just developing an innovative approach to educating nurses and is currently in accreditation candidacy status, perhaps is challenged to first demonstrate outcomes before research will be funded.

Indeed, as reported by Duffy, Frenn, & Patterson (2011, p. 10):

Although the need for nursing education research has been
identified by others (Ferguson & Day, 2005; Schultz, 2009;
Valiga, 2006), a continuing shortage of funds for such research
undermines evidence-based teaching and learning, program
evaluation, and the development of innovative educational
approaches designed to meet the needs of individuals, families,
and communities in an ever-challenging health care environment.
A similar dilemma has been noted in medicine (Tavakol,
Murphy, Rahemei-Madeseh, & Torabi, 2008). It is clear that
additional sources of funding for educational research are
needed if nurses and other clinicians are to be prepared for.

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In the researchers’ analysis of the NLN funding process for nursing education research projects in 2008-2010, NLN funded about 20% of the proposals submitted for a total of 24 funded projects for 2010.  Given that there are hundreds of schools of nursing in the USA, this number is quite low. Additionally, there remains a pervasive emphasis on quantitative studies (19 studies) with qualitative studies (3 studies) and mixed modalities (2 studies) still remaining viewed as perhaps lacking in rigor. Many leading nurse researchers and theorists highly value qualitative approaches as they capture the experience of the phenomena studied and yet they are obviously still under-valued by the funding bodies (Duffy et al, 2011)

Of other great concern is the minimal amounts of money directed toward funding nursing education research projects, with the average award from NLN being $9,864 for the year 2010; when NLN education research awards are granted, they are usually granted below the requested amount (Duffy et al, 2010).

Sigma Theta Tau has partnered with NLN to increase the amount of funds available. There are a few other sources for obtaining funds for research in nursing education and generating the body of evidence around innovative approaches, including some of the nursing specialty organizations and private agencies such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

I wonder as well: does the tenure track demand for scholarship and research, coupled with accreditation standards of demonstrating outcomes, set the tone that the generation of evidence around nursing education is just a mandatory aspect of the job?

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I would love to hear about other nurse educator journeys toward receiving funding for generating evidence around nursing education modalities. What was the application process like? How were you mentored? What role does the “status” of your school play? Were you using a quantitative, qualitative, or mixed approach? When funds were received, did your school also provide you with release time to complete the research?

Reference: Duff, J. R., Frenn, M., & Patterson, B. (2011). Advancing nursing education science: An analysis of the NLN’s grants program 2008-2010. Nursing Education Perspectives, 32(1), 10-13.

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