I'm a clinical research coordinator at a large university. It can be a very interesting job. I actually work in the clinical trials center, where I'm kind of a "rent-a-nurse" for any part of any kind of clinical research that the university needs.
I've missed out on any investigators' meetings, just my luck.
Yes, most studies are time-limited, and I've seen nurses have to scramble for another study/job. That can be frustrating, but most places/docs who are interested in clinical trials have another one coming up as soon as one closes out.
Another interesting-sounding job to shoot for if you REALLY like to travel a LOT is the monitor job. They get paid much Much MUCH more than the research coordinators do. I don't think I'd like the job very much, but sometimes it seems a bit tempting.
I think a research nurse should definitely have bedside care experience before going into research. Ive never met one who hadn't had at least *some* kind of experience like that.
So, except for the complete and total lack of interesting travel to exotic lands to be trained, SuzyK pretty much described my job. I've done clinical trials involving radiation in cardiac artery stents (in that one, I could have used some experience in CCU which I didn't have), in a medication in post-MI patients (Again, needed CCU experience for that; didn't have it, survived anyway), a shingles prevention study, a Vitamin-E study, and now a data collection study on atherosclerosis in RA.
Seems like the cardiac-related studies are pretty hairy, and the cardiac research nurses are related to the cowboys. Took pride in having been thrown in without any training or mentoring and made a success of it. I didn't like any of my cardiac studies, and I don't plan on ever doing another one. Maybe that's just my personal take on it.