Becoming a research nurse can be a career move that’s possible for many qualified nurses. In this article we take a look at the role and what's involved running a clinical trial. About Matt Farrah - follow me on Google+

Research nurse vacancies can be found in both the public and private sectors, and are often open to all branches of qualified nurses. It’s not often that research nurse positions come up for newly qualified nurses because certain professional development qualifications are required such as ENB 998 (Teaching and Assessing in Clinical Practice) or Phlebotomy (Venepuncture) training.

Research nurses work in all specialisms in all parts of the healthcare sector, and their role is broadly to help plan, implement and coordinate clinical trials and research while maintaining advocacy for the patients involved. They will assess and recruit individuals suitable for the particular trial and offer support throughout the process. The research collated throughout the trial is then reviewed by the modern matron, clinical lead and / or senior clinical team.

What skills do you need to become a Research Nurse?

You need a wide range of skills in addition to your nursing skills. You need to be meticulous and accurate when recording data, methodical in your organisation and implementation of the clinical trial as well as able to communicate well with the individuals taking part in the trial. You will be their main point of contact throughout the clinical trial and they will require your guidance and information. It's common for patients to also be receiving treatment from their doctor or consultant during the trial, so it's essential you can work well within a multidisciplinary team.

Most research nurse vacancies to ask for at least 2 years clinical experience prior to applying. In some cases you could be working without direct supervision, so it’s important that you have some experience as a qualified nurse before going into a research position.

What kind of areas can a research nurse work in?

There are research nurses running clinical trials in all areas of healthcare from epilepsy to infection control. You could find there are vacancies advertised for you to conduct research into a very specific area such as haematology in relation to cancer, or probiotics in the treatment of diarrhoea. The vacancies available with vary hugely between different trusts, but NHS research nurse jobs are typically rated at band 6.

Occasionally private sector research nurse jobs do appear, and the most common vacancies are working with pharmaceutical companies, medical devices companies or clinical trials organisations conducting research into new drugs or products. Some trials are conducted on healthy volunteers, others on patients who meet the criteria to be included in a clinical trial. In either case, you will be an advocate for the individuals involved and will monitor their wellbeing throughout.

Clinical trials in the private sector are run in much the same way as in the NHS. There are volunteers or patients with certain criteria that must give their permission to be involved, and the research nurse is the key point of contact for them.

How are clinical trials administered?

As with any research project, its aims and methods must be examined before the research commences. In the case of a clinical trial it must be approved by the Medical and Health Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as well as the Research Ethics Committee (REC). They check that the drugs or treatments are suitable for the patient, and that the aims of the trial are ethically sound and in the interests of further improving treatments.

Once approved, the research nurse will meet patients from both the trial group and the control group and will ask for their consent to be included in the trial. One group of patients are offered the new treatment, and the other is offered either current most effective treatment or no treatment at all, depending on the remit of the trial. Throughout the process the research nurse will monitor certain pre-decided indicators as well as document each patient’s condition by recording data in a uniform way for all participants. The findings are closely monitored by a Data Monitoring Committee (DMC), who are commonly a group of independent experts with a responsibility to look at the efficacy of the data collected.

How can I get into research nursing?

Simple, if you are a qualified nurse with an NMC pin number and at least 2 years experience in nursing you are usually eligible to apply. As with nursing jobs in all other specialisms some employers require different experience or competencies, but if you are an experienced nurse there is no reason why you shouldn't start searching and applying for research nurse jobs.