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Table of Contents
In the past few decades, the healthcare as a practical field has significantly diversified. Consequently, nurses and other healthcare personnel are prompted to engage in intensive research with the aim of getting updated information on the current health trends and statuses of a given patient population. Through the research, healthcare workforce became armed with a profound knowledge on how to handle new and advanced diseases, as well as changing disease patterns (LoBiondo-Wood & Haber, 2014). As such, healthcare research, by definition, is a multidisciplinary field of scientific investigation that seeks to study and determine the safety and effectiveness of medications, devices, diagnostic products, and treatment procedures used on a particular patient population. The overall aim of healthcare research is to improve the quality, safety, effectiveness, and efficiency of health outcomes for patients.
Healthcare research involves a systematic process that focuses on being objective in gathering as much information as possible, thus, enabling researchers to come to informed findings. The process takes place in multiple steps interlinked to each other (LoBiondo-Wood & Haber, 2014). The stages include problem identification, review of the literature, problem clarification, and definition of terms and concepts. These lie in steps one to four respectively. The fifth step is the population definition and the sixth step is the instrumentation plan development. These are followed by data collection and data analysis in the seventh and eighth positions respectively. After these stages are completed, the findings are published and then disseminated to the relevant parties.
The healthcare research process is associated with various significant impacts on different stakeholders in the healthcare field such as consumers, providers, policymakers and healthcare managers. The first and most notable beneficiaries of healthcare research are the consumers. They benefit directly from the healthcare research through improved healthcare outcomes as well as additional treatment options (LoBiondo-Wood & Haber, 2014). Additionally, the healthcare research process has a direct and protocol-related impact on the conduct of the patients to whom healthcare research studies are directed. Secondly, there are providers and healthcare managers. These and other healthcare professionals benefit from healthcare research through an enhanced career path that is intellectually challenging, but highly rewarding. On their part, healthcare research helps to generate new knowledge, which is associated with opportunities to learn new techniques and approaches to treatments. Subsequently, they can make sound and valid decisions based on empirical and scientific knowledge in what is referred to as evidence-based practice by providing the highest levels of evidence, thus, allowing practitioners to make the necessary improvements (LoBiondo-Wood & Haber, 2014).
Thirdly, policymakers are also beneficiaries of healthcare research. Information from research can significantly impact the decision-making processes undertaken by policy makers on issues implicating the healthcare system (LoBiondo-Wood & Haber, 2014). It can also assist in solving various healthcare challenges affecting the healthcare practice. Finally, healthcare research results in prized effects on healthcare institutions and services providing their care in trials as well as in daily practice. Here, the healthcare research can be considered as a commitment to better healthcare design by informing decisions and measuring the impact. The reason for this is that healthcare research is geared towards a better healthcare environment, enhanced human experience, better quality of life for patients, and value for all stakeholders in the healthcare field.
Healthcare research takes place in two major paradigms. These are naturalistic, also referred to as qualitative research and the positivistic, also referred to as quantitative research. The qualitative and quantitative research methods are different based on the perspectives of knowledge, the research design, and the types of data collected (Polit & Beck, 2004). In the qualitative research method the knowledge comes from the internal reality of an individual or a group. Qualitative researchers, also referred to as naturalistic researchers, consider reality as fluid and ever-changing. On the contrary, quantitative researchers view knowledge and information as coming from a measurable external reality. Referred to as positivistic researchers, they tend to view reality as a fixed issue (Polit & Beck, 2004). While qualitative researchers are open-minded and have an active engagement with participants and phenomenon, quantitative researchers have minimal engagement with the participants and phenomenon.
Case studies, case-control studies, correlational studies, cohort studies, experimental studies, and qualitative studies are collectively referred to as observational researches. These types are considered to be the only practical approaches to studying various problems (Polit & Beck, 2004). Cohort studies are useful for studying the incidence, causes, and prognosis. The reason for this is that they can measure events in chronological order and can thus be used to distinguish cause and effect. Cross-sectional studies are used to study prevalence. Case studies and case-control studies are used to compare various groups of participants retrospectively. Correlational studies help to establish the relationship between variables while experimental studies are those in which treatments, procedures, or programs are intentionally introduced with the goal of observing outcomes (Polit & Beck, 2004). Finally, qualitative studies are methods of inquiry aiming at gathering an in-depth understanding of the human actions and the factors that influence such behaviors (Polit & Beck, 2004).
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Research studies may be conducted as primary, secondary, and tertiary studies. The methods are differentiated by the types of data they use. By definition, primary studies mean original inquiries into a phenomenon. Primary studies are usually the first to provide results in physical, print, or electronic formats (Polit & Beck, 2004). Primary studies exhibit original thinking and sharing of new information. Primary studies make use of audio recordings, artifacts, interviews, photographs, surveys, and websites among others. In the healthcare context, primary studies are conducted to study new scenarios and answer new questions.