Recently, Scientific American published an article entitled “Nurses Are Also Scientists” by Eileen Sullivan-Marx. The author emphatically states, “But the truth is that all nurses are scientists”. While some nurses have made extremely strong scientific contributions over the years, I take issue with such broad characterization of nurses as stellar scientists simply by virtue of their credentials. For the past decade I have held senior faculty positions at two schools of nursing. As an epidemiologist, my role at both institutions was to support junior faculty conduct research by providing them with methodological support. For the record, clinical researchers often rely upon methodologists to help design studies and analyze data.
Nursing research deserves a prominent place in academic medicine and health policy. Nurses obviously possess an inimitable perspective and skill set that inform their research. Unfortunately, the field often lacks impact and nurses are put in the position of having to advocate for themselves, with little support from more prominent fields. Irrespective of the metric, the evidence strongly suggest nursing research has marginal scientific impact. For example, the Scimago Journal & Country Rank gave the top nursing journal, the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association a score of 2.14. In contrast, the highest scored journal in the much-maligned field of education is about 35% higher than that of the nursing journal. In fact, there are 34 education journals ranked higher than nursing (https://www.scimagojr.com/journalrank.php?category=3304). The nursing discipline fairs no better in either Scopus or Web of Science analyses and virtually invisible in Altmetric attention scores. As shown below (click to go to site):
Source: SCImago, (n.d.). SJR — SCImago Journal & Country Rank [Portal]. Retrieved 7/12/2021, from http://www.scimagojr.com
As shown in the graphic above, the field of nursing lags way behind most disciplines when it comes to impact. This begs the question, if “all nurses are scientists“, why aren’t they producing impactful research? My experience suggests that most nurses are not adequately prepared to design scientific research and are largely illiterate statistically. The lack of statistical literacy among clinical researchers is discussed in the literature (Aggarwal, 2018). Some studies have found that clinical educators and students often lack basic statistical knowledge (Jenny, Keller, Gigerenzer, 2018). Attempts have even been made to improve “research literacy” among nurses (Hines, Ramsbotham, and Coyer, 2016).