- 29 March 2023
- 9 min read
Job Interview Questions for Clinical Research NursesSubscribe To Advice
Perhaps you are considering a change of direction and would like to apply for a job in clinical research? Entering a different area can be both an exciting and daunting time, and you may have some questions about how to prepare yourself for an interview. This article will help you consider some points to research beforehand so you can build your confidence.
Reasons For Going Into Research
Firstly, consider your ‘why’. Why are you applying for this job?
Maybe you have no research background, but you heard about the role from someone else who works in research, and it sounds like an interesting field. Maybe research has always been in the back of your mind as a potential area to work in after you have gained enough clinical experience. Or perhaps you have little idea what it involves, but you just feel like trying something new.
Your potential employer will want to recruit someone who has an interest in research and can show how they can make a positive contribution to the clinical trial team. They are likely to ask you to demonstrate some understanding of why you think research is important.
Here are some ideas:
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Understand The Context
History: Read a little about the development of research over the last century and educate yourself about the pivotal historical moments which have shaped current practices, such as the notorious Nuremberg Trials, and the subsequent Declaration of Helsinki in 1964.
Regulations: Research is regulated by legal and ethical frameworks which ensure it is carried out to the highest standards in the safest possible manner. The Gold Standard is the Good Clinical Practice set of guidelines. You may be asked to name one or two of these, or at least show you are familiar with their purpose. You can find out more about GCP on the National Institute of Health and Care Research website, which is the main body which funds and supports the delivery of research across the UK.
Legality: You might be asked to explain the importance of informed consent, which needs to be given by every participant before taking part in a research study. Clinical Research Nurses play an important role in helping participants to understand what the trial involves, and making sure they are fully aware of both the risks and potential benefits.
Day To Day
Educate yourself about the basic aspects involved in clinical trials. For example, each site (i.e., a research unit in a hospital) has a Principal Investigator, usually a consultant or highly qualified clinician who has overall responsibility for the safety and delivery of the trial. Research Nurses work closely with the PI during the set-up and delivery of the trial, and regularly require their input to clinically evaluate results and give guidance and support.
The backbone of each clinical trial is the Protocol, which gives exact instructions for every element involved in the delivery of the trial. It is the manual which must be followed at all times to ensure research is effective, accurate and safe for every participant taking part.
So, the more you can learn about clinical trials, and the role of the Research Nurse, the better you will be prepared to answer questions which relate to the research context.
Currently, there is a national drive to make research more visible and accessible in the NHS, so that both healthcare practitioners and the public can easily participate in research. With so many developments, it’s an exciting time to be in post…
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Demonstrating Knowledge And Understanding
Every employer has their own criteria of how much research background they require a candidate to have. This should be specified in the job description, so if a post states that a research background is preferable but not essential, you still have a fair chance. You will need to demonstrate that you have the willingness to learn, transferable skills, and some understanding of the context in which research takes place.
If you have experience working on a research project, all the better. Recap what you worked on and be prepared to talk about the findings of the study and what you learnt during the process. If you don’t have any background working in research, perhaps you have participated in a research trial, or know someone who has.
Find out about current research studies in the specialty you are interested in applying for. For example, if you are attending an interview for a cardiac unit, see what studies are being undertaken in this area. You can find out more information on the NIHR, and you can also use Google Scholar to run a general search of the available evidence. Make sure you check the sources, and remember, you don’t need to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of entire studies. Just focus on widening your awareness of the current research field and any developments or exciting breakthroughs that have taken place.
If you can, talk to other people who work in research. This may be other nurses, but it doesn’t need to be. Clinical trials consist of a variety of roles, such as data managers, clinical trial research associates, and administrative assistants. See who you can find and ask them questions. They will likely be happy to help and share their knowledge with you.
Sometimes, you may be asked to prepare a brief presentation about a relevant research issue, such as an aspect of trial delivery. Again, this is an opportunity to demonstrate some understanding of the Research Nurse role, and some of the challenges involved in running clinical trials. You can read more about the daily life of a Research Nurse here for further information.
Lastly, consider your transferable skills. Clinical experience is usually a prerequisite for research roles, because you will be caring for patients and ensuring their safety for the duration of the study, and in the follow-up period after the trial finishes.
If you are applying for a job in an area where you have a specialism, then all the better. Your clinical knowledge and skills will be an asset to the team, especially during screening and study visits. Even if you are applying to an area which is completely different to anything you have worked in before, don’t panic. Nursing involves a complex set of skills which are highly transferable.
Here’s a few examples of questions that may come up:
● Can you think of a time when you demonstrated good record keeping skills?
Paying close attention to detail is vital when you work in research, because you will need to keep thorough and accurate records to ensure research findings are reliable and easy to trace for auditing purposes.
● Can you give an example of a situation where you had to prioritise your time to meet a deadline?
Research is a dynamic and often fast-paced environment that requires you to adapt to a variety of tasks and deadlines- something you will be used to if you work in clinical settings.
● Tell me about a situation where you cared for a patient who was dealing with a new diagnosis, or a terminal condition?
Demonstrate how you helped the person to understand what this means and supported them to manage their symptoms, so they were less debilitating.
Currently, there is a national drive to make research more visible and accessible in the NHS, so that both healthcare practitioners and the public can easily participate in research. With so many developments, it’s an exciting time to be in post, and there are many opportunities to develop and progress in your career.
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A Final Word
Remember the last word in the job role title is ‘nurse’. Do your research for the role and be open to learning and confident in your ability to treat and care for your patients- the rest will follow.