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.
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
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.