As someone who studies nursing career paths and career planning, I am VERY curious. Why do you think you might go into research if you know so little about it? How did you come to the decision that it might be something you would be interested in doing as a full time job if you don't know what it is?
I hear such questions and comments from students and young nurses all the time. They get their heart set on a certain job or career path, but then indicate that they have no knowledge about what it actually involves. That seems backwards to me. It seems to me that someone would first explore the different options and find out about them before deciding that one or the other seemed attractive. If you could give me any insight into how that decision-making process happens to make you think you might like research when you know so little about it, I'd certainly appreciate it.
Anyway ... to get to your question. The purpose of research is to develop knowledge about something. That knowledge can be used to improve practice. Sometimes, that link between a given research project and the improvement of patient care is short, direct, and obvious -- for example, when you are studying whether or not a new drug is effective or not. However at other times, the link between the research and the practice improvement is not so quick and direct -- for example, when the research project is looking to identify a particular chemical in the bloodstream that might be used by some other researcher to develop a treatment that might be available for use in another 5-10 years.
Often, research nurses work as project assistants or project coordinators for a physician (or geneticist, or biochemist, etc.) on a projec that will develop knowledge in the field of the Primary Investigator (the physician, geneticist, pharmacologist, etc.) -- NOT in the nursing field. The knowledge they develop is valuable, but it is not nursing knowledge.
Sometimes, nurses do their own research -- usually nurses with graduate degrees who work academic settings, but ocassionally, nurses who work in regular hospitals. Those nurses do research to develop knowledge about nursing processes and the treatment of nursing problems. They ocassionally hire other nurses to work as coordinators of those projects or as assistants, but that is less common because few nurses have the funding to support the hiring of employees to help them do their research. Most nursing researchers do their own projects themselves or with just the help of graduate student assistants or other relatively inexpensive support -- though of course, there are some exceptions to that.
I hope my answers help you a little. We have some professional research coordinators on allnurses. Hopefully, some will come along soon and provide you with more information about their field. My background is that I worked for 5 years as a graduate assistant in a nursing research center and for 1 year as a faculty associate in another nursing research center. I now work for a hospital and work on small projects of my own.