The impact of nursing, midwifery and allied health professions research

22 June 2016

Leading researchers from our disciplines are undertaking highly innovative and important research to improve patient care and service organisation, often helping to respond to the demographic pressures facing the health and care sector. Areas highlighted in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) include:

  • Improving patient safety – including infection control and safe staffing.
  • Combating global challenges – research relevant to developing countries including public health, maternal health interventions and the application of technology in resource-poor settings.
  • Increasing service efficiency – reducing unplanned hospital admissions, facilitating early discharge and improving productivity.
  • Studying and developing new methods to manage long-term conditions – for example stroke rehabilitation, self-management, diabetes management and cancer survivorship.

There is an enormous breadth of research, from the clinically-based, such as improving outcomes from surgery, to research rooted more in the social sciences, for example:

  • Identifying gaps between policy and individual and community needs – developing dementia friendly communities, analysing peer support networks and evaluating the use of dementia advisers.
  • Developing the evidence base for reducing the impact of social inequalities through improving access to care for vulnerable groups.
  • Using participatory research methods and finding new ways to engage service users and carers in research projects.

A substantial number of authors and editors of Cochrane reviews across a wide range of topics are nurses, midwives and AHPs. The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) funds the infrastructure of 21 out of 52 Cochrane review groups globally. Groups with particular relevance for nursing, midwifery and AHP research include Cochrane Wounds (led by a nurse since its inception in 1995), Cochrane Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma and Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth. Most if not all Cochrane groups involve nurses, midwives and AHPs in some way, particularly as reviewers.

Collaborative research

Many nursing, midwifery and AHP researchers are working collaboratively across universities, NHS Trusts, primary care and industry with clinicians and researchers from other disciplines including medicine, engineering, bio-science, computing, the arts and social sciences.

The health professions are uniquely placed to draw on the enormous opportunities presented by new technologies, data and materials, social innovations and systems thinking to improve patient care and outcomes and service design, delivery and organisation.

Universities also work in partnership with the NHS and other providers to create clinical academic posts, roles that generate and translate knowledge for better patient care. Although relatively small in number, nursing, midwifery and AHP clinical academics play a pivotal role within the NHS and other providers, bringing patient-focused insights and conducting translational research which offers direct benefits to the quality of patient care, improving health and social care delivery and public health.

Demonstrating excellence

In the 2014 REF exercise, most research led by nurses, midwives and AHPs was submitted under REF Main Panel A, Unit of Assessment 3, where 31% of the research was judged to be world-leading and 50% internationally excellent. The UoA scored particularly strongly for impact with 47% of submissions rated world-leading and 41% internationally excellent. Research by nurses, midwives and AHPs featured strongly in submissions to the sub-panel.

The Council has published Care Transformed demonstrating the impact of research undertaken by nurses, midwives and AHPs based on evidence documented during REF 2014.

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