I've been a research nurse for seven months now. It's the specialty I got into right after graduation. I was able to find work in this area because I had worked in research for three years before I went to nursing school
. Just like any job, there are things I like and things I dislike, so I will just make a little list--
Things I like about being a research nurse:
1) getting paid to read new study protocols and learn about new drugs, devices, diseases, and treatments. I have always loved school and learning, so this suits me to a T. I think it helps that I especially love pharmacology, but this is not necessary to enjoy the job.
2) educating patients about the study and the new drug/device, and talking with them about their participation. Not everyone should be part of a clinical trial, so the informed consent discussion is really important. Some studies enroll healthy volunteers who will be asked to take the drug so that its safety/tolerability can be established, and some studies are enrolling people diagnosed with diseases that might be treated by the new drug (e.g., cancer and cancer treatments). Other studies are designed purely to answer a practical or theoretical question about the drug (e.g., does it have an effect on lab values?). The purpose of the trial makes a big difference for the patient, and I work hard to make sure they understand the point and the risks/benefits of the study. I see this as my primary nursing duty when I'm on the job.
3) Caring for my patients! If I have drawn some labs for the study, and I see some abnormalities in the results, I have to take care of that. I consult with my docs and inform the patient, making referrals as needed. This is my favorite part of my job.
4) Highly regular hours, almost no weekends or evenings. 8am-4pm M-F is the rule, with very occasional exceptions dictated by certain studies (pharmacokinetic studies could run for 12-14 hours, some studies might require weekend dosing, etc.)
5) The physicians are generally very respectful of us--they know that we know a study inside and out, and they take our opinion seriously.
Things I don't like about being a research nurse:
1) Depending on the particular job, patient contact may or may not be a huge part of the day. Some places you will work only with charts/data/paperwork, and others you will spend maybe half the day with patients.
2) There is always a lot of paperwork in nursing, but research takes it to a whole new level. HUGE amounts of paperwork related to the FDA, the sponsor, the patient chart, the institutional review board, the facility...There is always the anxiety that you've missed something or haven't reported something.
Overall, it's a cool specialty if you like learning and can handle the extremely detail-oriented environment.
Hope that's helpful!