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Undergraduate research experiences have become a hallmark of excellence in degree programs in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, with indications that these experiences lay important groundwork for graduate education and practice in the field. In nursing, several schools offer undergraduate nursing research experiences, though there is scant research related to outcomes among nurses at the baccalaureate level. Since evidence-based practice (EBP) is becoming increasingly important in health care, the use of research-related skill sets has become more critical for practicing nurses. The benefits of undergraduate research experience have been inadequately studied and there have been no nursing studies on the impact of undergraduate nursing research experience on the practicing registered nurse. At a research intensive public university, a robust honors program exposes students to research throughout the baccalaureate degree, with student engagement in every step of the research process alongside faculty research mentors. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively explore the experiences and outcomes of participation in a significant undergraduate research project on the first few years of nursing practice as an RN. Data analysis was conducted using an open coding method to analyze the responses of the participants and aid in the process of identifying major themes that express the phenomenon. Through this approach a descriptive analysis of the experience of completing an undergraduate research project was completed, including the impact on the nursing practice and development of the participants in their early careers. The results suggest that extensive exposure to research in undergraduate schooling increases the level of self-confidence in the first nursing position. Participants also felt that they stood out from their peers. Other benefits include expanding knowledge regarding the research process, improving writing and public speaking skills, and advancing personal and professional development.
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