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Undergraduate nursing students have difficulty comprehending the relevance of research to their future as nurses. Working as an undergraduate research assistant may provide opportunities to develop an appreciation of research. The purpose of this study was to explore former undergraduate research assistants' perceptions of their experience and its effects on their practice as professional nurses. This study used a qualitative descriptive design. Seven former undergraduate research assistants were interviewed. Interview transcripts were analyzed for themes using content analysis. Data analysis yielded three main themes: immersion in the research process, empowered to practice evidence-based nursing, and future nurse scientists and educators. Immersion in the research process increased participants' understanding of research and its importance to nursing practice. This experience facilitated acquisition of skills they used in their current clinical settings to practice evidence-based nursing. Close relationships with a faculty mentor and exposure to a community of nurse scientists at a regional research conference inspired some to consider a future as nurse scientists and educators. An undergraduate research assistant program may be an effective approach to preparing baccalaureate nursing students for clinical practice and for graduate education. Positive experiences with conducting research are essential to nurturing the next generation of nurse scientists and educators.

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This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. © 2020, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International license. The final, definitive version of this document can be found online at Journal of Professional Nursing,

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