Clinical research nursing
A one-stop-shop for nurses working in clinical research
Clinical research is essential
It is the only evidence-based method of deciding whether a new approach to treatment or care is better than the current standard, and is essential to diagnose, treat, prevent, and cure disease. Clinical research nurses play a vital role in delivering clinical research, and ultimately improving patient care and treatment pathways.
Duties could include:
- supporting a patient through their treatment as part of a clinical trial
- preparing trial protocols and other trial-related documentation
- helping to develop new drugs, treatments, care pathways or regimens for patients
- dealing with data collection
- submitting study proposals for regulatory approval, and co-ordinating the initiation, management and completion of the research
- managing a team.
COVID-19 and clinical research nurses
The current pandemic has raised the awareness of clinical research and the impact it has on identifying effective treatments to treat this recently emerging virus. From the outset, clinical research has been a key part of the government's response and the plan to contain, delay, research and mitigate. Clinical research nurses (CRNs) have been key to the effective delivery of many of the COVID-19 interventional and observational studies now running or completed. In order to focus recruitment on key treatment studies, trusts have been encouraged to prioritise studies approved by the UK's four Chief Medical Officers (CMO) and running within the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network.
The following articles provide further information on the work of CRNs during the current pandemic.
- Iles-Smith H et al on behalf of the Association of UK Lead Research Nurses (2020) How research nurses and midwives are supporting COVID-19 clinical trials. Nursing Times [online]; 116: 11, 20-22.
- Jones H et al (2020) Clinical research nurses and midwives - a key workforce in the coronavirus pandemic. Nursing Times [online]; 30 Apr 2020.
Sharing your stories - tell us about your experience during the pandemic
There is no escaping the impact on clinical research over the last 12 months due to the pandemic. Teams have hibernated and suspended large parts of their study portfolios to enable the swift set up and delivery of COVID-19 and vaccine studies. This has required a complete restructure of the research delivery workforce as well as decisions around which research nurses can be released to provide support to clinical areas. In addition, some staff have been required to continue supporting the life extending or preserving studies that remained open and this may have required them to take on additional portfolios and clinical specialities as the dedicated teams were re-deployed to COVID-19 related work.
The RCN Research Society Clinical Research Nurses sub-committee is interested in receiving accounts of your reflections and experiences now that the peak of the second wave is behind us and previous workloads begin to return. These will then be posted on the sub-committee website to share with research nurses across the country. In addition, we may review them as a collective to identify whether any common themes or learning is apparent. If this is felt to be of sufficient interest to the wider research nurse workforce, these themes will be summarised within an article for submission to an appropriate journal.
We would encourage you to reflect on your experience and send us a written account. Everyone's experience will come from their own unique perspective - all are of value and interest.
For further information and to receive guidelines please contact Helen Jones, Chair of the RCN Clinical Research Nurses sub-committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Final submission date is Monday 30 June 2021.
Clinical research and the NIHR
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funds health and care research and provides the people, facilities, and technology that enables research to thrive.
The NIHR invests significantly in people, centres of excellence, collaborations, services and facilities to support health and care research in England. Collectively these form the NIHR infrastructure, which can support you to:
- find collaboration opportunities
- access methodology advice
- access facilities for early stage research
- run your study
- access data, patient cohorts or sample support
Are you a nurse, midwife or allied health professional (AHP) practicing in the NHS? Do you have views about how research is delivered by Clinical Research Nurses in the NHS? Would you be prepared to share those views?
The Represent-CRN study is part of the Royal College of Nursing Strategic Research Alliance with the University of Sheffield. It aims to explore the views of registered NHS staff operating outside of clinical research delivery teams, in relation to the Clinical Research Nurse role and research delivery.
By exploring these views, we hope to shed light on what leads to different perceptions of research, ultimately to enable more patients to have the opportunity to participate in research that is relevant to their health.
Find out more about the study.
Looking for a career in clinical research?
If you work in the NHS, most Trusts have R&D departments, who will put you in touch with the lead clinical research nurse: there may be opportunities to shadow, or do short-term work placements.
Research nursing across the UK
Organisational research structures and strategies
Publications which may help organisations to develop their own research infrastructure.
- Whitehouse, CL. And Smith, HA. (2018) The Whitehouse Report: Review of research nursing and midwifery structures, strategies and sharing of learning across the UK and Ireland in 2017. The Florence Nightingale Foundation.
- Jones, HC. (2017) Exploring the experience of Clinical Research Nurses working within acute NHS trusts and determining the most effective way to structure the workforce: A mixed methods study.
A selection of articles about research nursing.
- Tinkler L. Smith V. Tuannakou Y and Robinson L. (2017) Professional Identity and the clinical research nurse: A qualitative study exploring issues having an impact on participant recruitment in research. Journal of Advanced Nursing
- Jones H.C. (2015) Clinical research nurse or nurse researcher? Nursing Times. 111(19) 12-14
- Hamer S. (2015) The nurse's changing role in clinical research. Nursing Times. 111(39) 12-14
- Gleason K (2013) What is a Research Nurse and what do they do? Clinfield Blog
Research and innovation bulletin
Keep up to date with all the latest developments in nursing research by signing up to the RCN’s fortnightly research and innovation bulletin.