At the University that I work at, the research assistants are paid very poorly, about $25,000 or so annually and it MIGHT get you entre into a department but it could also be a dead end road. I'd be very careful about accepting a non-nursing job. Nurses who interview other nurses for hiring purposes (been there, done that) are sometimes a little worried about nurses who accept non-nursing jobs, especially just out of school. That is unless you can really explain it as part of a career path and being a research assistant might fall into that category.
That said, we also have clinical research coordinators who are not nurses so my theory probably doesn't hold water!
So what do you do until you land your job? Tell everyone that you know what kind of job you are looking for and be nice to everyone, you never know where the referral will come from. I got my last job because a secretary in one department told a secretary in my department that they were looking for a research nurse and asked if she knew any nurses who were looking. She told me and I interviewed and got the job before it ever got posted.
See if there is a local group of research nurses at your university, there is at mine. If so, call the group organizer and ask if you can sit in on one of their meetings and hopefully hear about positions and pick up tips. This may be an informal group and tough to find but if you can get access to a list of employees and titles, trying calling a few research nurses and ask about a group. You may have to make a few calls because I find even though there are a lot of research nurses working here, only a small percentage participate in the group. I get calls occasionally from nurses like you with inquiries of one sort or the other and I never mind.
You might join a local chapter of a specialty that interests you and again, try to network yourself into a job.
In the interval though I'd get a clinical job of some type, even if you are working per diem or part time. It will give you a few skills, expose you to more people to network with and pay the bills until you find your dream job!