Last Updated 06 Jul 2020

Key Historical Developments in Nursing Research

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The aim of this paper is to discus key historical developments in nursing research and nursing research utilization. The aforementioned events will be grouped into five categories, namely Nursing Research, Nursing Publications, Emergence of Nursing Schools, Establishment of Research Institutes, and Research Utilization. Two examples per category will be presented. Also, the paper will analyze how and to what extent the selected events have influenced nursing research.

Nursing Research

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Many nursing theorists deserve being mentioned in this section, however, the selected ones produced the most significant impact on further nursing research and research utilization. Dorothea E. Orem, the author of Self-Care Deficit Nursing Theory, began its development in 1950’s. The theory holds that adults are generally expected to perform self-care themselves, but if they fail to do so, nursing should be provided. Another important theory, namely Modeling and Role-Modeling theory, was developed by Tomlin, Swain and Erickson. It was presented in a book, which was first published in 1983. Theoretical models exemplified the need for a new approach to nursing. They showed that nursing, like any other science, should be based on

Nursing Publications

American Journal of Nursing was first published in 1900. It is believed to be not only the oldest but also the most widely read nursing publication in the world. Slightly more than half a century later the first issue of Nursing Research, the official journal of the Eastern Nursing Research Society and the Western Institute of Nursing, was published in 1951. Professional journals are crucial for knowledge exchange among specialists from the given field. In addition, emergence of nursing journals legitimized nursing research as a separate field of study.

Emergence of Nursing Schools

Yale School of Nursing established in 1923 was the first autonomous to teach and research nursing issues. In 1956 the Columbia University School of Nursing became first in the country to award a master's degree in a clinical nursing. All reputable nursing schools focus not only on teaching but also research. As the official website of Yale School of Nursing informs, the school “relies heavily on its deep tradition of excellence in research” and assures that at “one of the world's most distinguished research universities, scholarship reflects the interchange between practice and knowledge” (Yale School of Nursing, 2007, “Research and Scholarship”).

Establishment of Research Institutes

Western Institute of Nursing was established in 1957 as the Western Council on Higher Education for Nursing (WCHEN) and given its present name in 1985. It is best known as the organizer of the annual Communicating Nursing Research conference, the older event of such kind in the United States (The Western Institute of Nursing, 2007). The National Institute for Nursing Research (NINR) was founded in 1986 and played an important role in further advancement of nursing research by offering funding opportunities and coordinating the effort by many dispersed institutions. Both institutions offer small grants for nursing research and sustain a network of organizations and individuals involved in this research.

Research Utilization

There are different models of nursing research utilization, which were developed during the last four decades. Developed by the Michigan Nurses Association model referred to as Conduct and Utilization of Research in Nursing (CURN) advises determining the credibility of scientific studies before implementation (MacGuire, 2006). Historically, this method can be attributed to 1970s-1980s decades, since the most prominent works advocating this method, namely “Research utilization as an organizational process” (1978) by Horsley, Crane and Bingle, “Developing research-based innovation protocols: process, criteria, and issues” (1979) by Haller, Reynolds and Horsley, and “Using Research to Improve Nursing Practice: A Guide” (1983) by Horsley, Crane, Crabtree and Wood appeared during these decades.

The Stetler Model of Research Utilization and Iowa Model for Research in Practice appeared simultaneously in 1994 (Beyea & Nicoll, 1997). The first model establishes six-step model for nursing research utilization (preparation, validation, comparative evaluation, decision making, translation and application, and evaluation), while the latter is based on Quality Assurance Model Using Research (1987) and emphasizes multidisciplinary approach to evidence-based healthcare. The emergence of these models provided a clear framework for the implementation of nursing research findings into everyday nursing practice.


Nursing research and nursing research utilization evolved over the centuries, yet the most important period in the history of nursing research started in the second half of the 20th centuries due to the emergence of scientific theories, specialized publications, nursing schools, and research institutes.


Beyea, S.C., & Nicoll, L.H. (March 1997). “Research utilization models help disseminate research findings and ultimately improve patient outcomes.” AORN Journal, 65(5), 978-9.

MacGuire, J.M. (2006). “Putting nursing research findings into practice: research utilization as an aspect of the management of change.” Journal of Advanced Nursing, 53 (1), 65-71.

Yale School of Nursing. (May 25, 2007). Home Page. Retrieved June 17, 2007, from the World Wide Web:

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