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Open Access Research

A modest start, but a steady rise in research use: a longitudinal study of nurses during the first five years in professional life

Lars Wallin12*, Petter Gustavsson3, Anna Ehrenberg4 and Ann Rudman3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Division of Nursing, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

2 Clinical Research Utilization, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden

3 Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

4 School of Health and Social Studies, Dalarna University, Falun, Sweden

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Implementation Science 2012, 7:19  doi:10.1186/1748-5908-7-19

Published: 19 March 2012

Abstract

Background

Newly graduated nurses are faced with a challenging work environment that may impede their ability to provide evidence-based practice. However, little is known about the trajectory of registered nurses' use of research during the first years of professional life. Thus, the aim of the current study was to prospectively examine the extent of nurses' use of research during the first five years after undergraduate education and specifically assess changes over time.

Method

Survey data from a prospective cohort of 1,501 Swedish newly graduated nurses within the national LANE study (Longitudinal Analyses of Nursing Education and Entry in Worklife) were used to investigate perceived use of research over the first five years as a nurse. The dependent variables consisted of three single items assessing instrumental, conceptual, and persuasive research use, where the nurses rated their use on a five-point scale, from 'never' (1) to 'on almost every shift' (5). These data were collected annually and analyzed both descriptively and by longitudinal growth curve analysis.

Results

Instrumental use of research was most frequently reported, closely followed by conceptual use, with persuasive use occurring to a considerably lower extent. The development over time showed a substantial general upward trend, which was most apparent for conceptual use, increasing from a mean of 2.6 at year one to 3.6 at year five (unstandardized slope +0.25). However, the descriptive findings indicated that the increase started only after the second year. Instrumental use had a year one mean of 2.8 and a year five mean of 3.5 (unstandardized slope +0.19), and persuasive use showed a year one mean of 1.7 and a year five mean of 2.0 (unstandardized slope +0.09).

Conclusion

There was a clear trend of increasing research use by nurses during their first five years of practice. The level of the initial ratings also indicated the level of research use in subsequent years. However, it took more than two years of professional development before this increase 'kicked in.' These findings support previous research claiming that newly graduated nurses go through a 'transition shock,' reducing their ability to use research findings in clinical work.