Background Research is essential to generate the scientific evidence for critical care nursing practice, but it is challenging to conduct research in the busy critical care environment. The challenges are even greater in a setting with limited resources for research and where nurses have not typically conducted independent clinical studies.

Objectives To detail a successful research trajectory for studying the ABCs of patient care in the critically ill: airway, breathing, and circulation.

Methods After initial studies on circulation were conducted, the research was narrowed to focus on airway management. Airway management may be a key factor in preventing ventilator-associated pneumonia because aspiration of colonized oral, gastric, and tracheal secretions is the primary cause of ventilator-associated pneumonia. Multiple descriptive, pilot, and interventional studies have been conducted; findings from each have contributed to future studies.

Results Other ABCs were critical to this research success: action, back to basics, collaboration, and discovery. It is important for researchers to be self-motivated and to take initiative to develop skills and resources for conducting clinical studies. Several guiding principles help to promote success in research: (1) generate research ideas grounded in observation and clinical practice, (2) collaborate with others, and (3) establish affiliations and partnerships. Discovery occurs in many ways: new findings to guide practice and research, resources to conduct the study, and self-discovery.

Conclusions Nursing research is not easy. However, determination and resources help nursing researchers achieve success.

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