The third round of the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS3) promises to reveal information as transformative as the first version of the study. But this time around the revolutionary study is looking to make a change that will resonate with minority nurses nationwide. To better reflect the nation’s increasingly diverse population, the study is especially interested in the participation of minority nurses—both ethnic and racial minorities and also male nurses.

We need nurses,” says Dr. Jorge Chavarro, the principal investigator of NHS3. Chavarro became involved in the third round of the study 15 years ago, with a special interest in infertility and reproductive health.

When the first Nurses’ Health Study launched in 1976 (and the second in 1989), the scientific focus was to follow women for clues to breast cancer. Specifically, the study wanted to find out if there was any correlation between birth control pills and breast cancer risk, but it also gave more general information about cardiovascular heath and diabetes as well. From there, the information gathered has revolutionized areas of healthcare.

Interestingly, the nurses’ study has always been defined by an occupation, but it has never been an occupation cohort,” Chavarro says, noting that NHS3 will now include occupational health issues such as heavy lifting, radiation exposure, or exposure to cleaning agents. Study investigators recruited nurses to participate because they were excellent responders who had a thorough understanding of specific medical terms and could participate with less margin of error.

What’s new in NHS3?

  • a targeted effort to recruit more minority nurses
  • a targeted effort to recruit more male nurses
  • a new participation option for Canadian nurses
  • a focus to capture occupational exposure concerns and understand how that impacts a nurse’s health
  • an entirely web-based participation

We want to involve as many minority nurses as possible,” says Chavarro, “and it’s the same for male nurses.” Canadian nurses are also welcome to participate, and many of them have already been long-term participants. Chavarro says the team realized it’s not difficult to continue collecting information from nurses who have moved to Canada, and so opening the study to all Canadian nurses is only going to be helpful for study results..

The Nurses’ Health Study collects vast amounts of data on lifestyle, nutrition, exposures, and health events. The study’s history is revealing in itself and shows the vast changes over the past decades. Nurses were the designated cohort after some trial and error in the first study. Initially, doctor’s wives were going to be the chosen cohort in the pilot study as birth control pills could only be prescribed to married women then and most physicians were men.

The second choice was nurses,” says Chavarro, “and it was the best decision ever. It changes the questions you can ask.” Nurses are going to be very clear about any medical events that happened to them and that makes all the difference in evaluating the data, he says. They can also do other tasks that are extremely valuable and that are primarily unavailable to the general population. For instance, collecting varied biological specimens is something nurses can, and do, perform with ease and accuracy.

Chavarro says nurses who participate are making a change in the health of future generations and that’s often why they get involved. The time commitment is fairly low and the benefits to humanity are significant.

To continue being impactful, we need all nurses, but especially those who give us a picture of how the US looks as a whole,” says Chavarro. “Nurses are amazing and are the best participants ever. This is a definite opportunity to join this study and make enormous contributions as they have done in the past and will continue to do for many decades to come.”

Find out more information about signing up for NHS3.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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