What do you like about being a research nurse?


I would like to hear from some research nurses as to what they like about being a research nurse? Do you find clinical trials interesting? Is this area of nursing rewarding to you? Thanks! :)


16 Posts

Hi AwayWeGo,

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!


52 Posts


Thanks so much for the response! I will be starting my new job in clinical trials research very soon which I'm very excited about. I love learning new things as well which is why I think this will be a great fit. The paperwork doesn't bother me too much as I'm used to charting, charting, and more charting. The M-F schedule with occasional call gives me some normalcy rather than my old crazy night shift schedule. Thanks again for the pros and cons, this helps a lot.


16 Posts

Congrats, AwayWeGo! Welcome to the field. I think you'll like it!


22 Posts

Specializes in Intensive Care Nursi.

Hello Research Nurses,

I very much want to become a Research Nurse. I have a BS (in nursing) and many years of experience, especially in ICU. However, I want to make a major change and Research Nursing is very attractive to me.

How do I find companies to work for?

What qualifications would be especially helpful for me to have?

What areas would be better areas of research for me to apply for? (I am a generalist at heart, so I would be interested not only in med0surg types of studies, but lab work, treatments, obgyn, women's health ,etc, drug trials, device trials, etc)

When I go for an interview what are they going to want to hear?? (I put in my resume yesterday at a tertiary hospital with RN level research positions open in cardiology, geriatrics, and another posting that just said "research". I applied for all 3.

I have looked on LinkedIn for companies---but it has been overwhelming to try to figure out:

what is the job title I should apply for???

which companies are more likely to hire and train a newbie???

and what would I actually be doing as an RN (even tho they posted the job description)

Any comments you can provide would be of great use to me!!

(Maybe I should have made a separate post for each question I have)

Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.


16 Posts

Hi tropicalfish,

1) there are many options for working in research--you don't necessarily have to work for a pharmaceutical company. The major areas that hire research nurses are universities, hospitals (free-standing and university-affiliated), privately owned research facilities known as "CROs" (contract research organizations), and pharmaceutical companies such as Amgen, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Medtronic, etc.. Look around in your area to see what you have nearby.

2) Qualifications: knowledge of research design and ethics (especially ethics!) is really key as a specific qualification for research. If you have a community college or an online educational option, look for courses in these areas. I think that knowledge in ethics/good clinical practices is the first thing you have to understand. Also, if you know that the potential employer specializes in certain diseases/devices/treatments, be able to show that you know something about their specialty. More general skills such as attention to minute details and a tendency toward perfectionism are also important. With a background in ICU, you will be EXTREMELY attractive to employers, so you should definitely emphasize this. Particularly if you want to work in Phase One trials (these are trials of medications that are being used in humans for the very first time), you will find ICU experience will get you in the door.

3) Areas of research: depends heavily on your interests. If you want to run trials on a variety of subjects and diseases, you should look for a place that has that kind of variety available (i.e., big teaching hospital, university department, etc., but probably not a private CRO or a pharmaceutical company).

4) At interview: you will be asked about how clinical research is different from standard bedside care. And how it is similar! Example: Things that are different: in a research study, you have a protocol you are expected to follow. If you're wondering whether to give a certain medication or not, you must check the protocol. At the same time, if it's an emergent situation, you are expected to use your judgment and NOT follow the protocol if doing so would harm the patient. The protocol is never a substitute for your best judgment! This kind of thing is referred to as "GCP" (Good Clinical Practices)--look up some resources and familiarize yourself with GCP before any interview. GCP, to me, really means that my research patients and my non-research patients all get the same care in terms of quality--I think carefully about what is best for them at all times. You'll also want to spend some time thinking about how to answer questions about your approach to informed consent--this is VERY important and you want to show you've thought about why this is important. I suggest reading the label of a bottle of OTC medication and thinking about how you would talk with someone who wasn't sure about taking it--the language is pretty similar to how a lot of consent forms are written, and it (understandably) freaks out a lot of patients. Bear in mind that your job is NOT to get the person to take the medication--your job is to answer their questions and let them make a decision.

5) You want to look for "research nurse", "clinical research coordinator", "clinical research nurse", and possibly "research coordinator" first. I don't think you should spend time looking for "CRA" (clinical research associate) positions, which are meant for people who have already spent a few years as study nurses and coordinators.

6) Finally, what will you DO as a research RN? This is also heavily dependent on where you work. I have worked in positions where I did EKGs, blood draws, IV starts, and monitoring of infusions, along with all the data entry and paperwork. And I have also worked in positions where I'm more of a paperwork jockey--combination medical detective and data management person. It is really important that you ask about this at interview--find out how you would be spending an average day, because it is REALLY variable. What you can count on is that you'll be working with patients and physicians who depend on you to know your studies well, and that you'll have monitors who will make sure you are doing everything that needs to be done.

Kind of a long answer, but you asked! :) Good luck!


22 Posts

Specializes in Intensive Care Nursi.

Thank you So Much BirdieGirl31,

The information you provided is extremely useful. I will definitely benefit by your comments.


26 Posts

Hi y'all,

I am a newly graduated nurse with a BSN. I have worked in research and research administration for the past 10 years. I just completed the accelerated BSN program and attempted to find some sort of ER or OR nursing position but the market is really tough. I never really intended to go into bedside nursing when I went back for my nursing degree. I am a research girl, can't shake it. I guess I got wrapped up with some of the old school nursing instructors who say that you have to do bedside nursing after graduating before you can do anything else. It's just not the case nowadays. Then, a clinical research coordinator position with a private dermatology group fell into my lap. How could I say no? The interview alone with this group was so much more pleasant than any of the bedside nursing interviews that I had. I felt like I was coming home when I interviewed for the research spot. I am really excited about this new job! I cover the research studies, and I will also be seeing the patients on the private derm side. I start work on Aug. 2nd.

Birdiegirl31, you totally summed up the position as a reasearch nurse perfectly! It sounds like you are a great fit in your job.

Specializes in Radiation Oncology. Has 9 years experience.

Texcat - We are almost in the exact same boat! I did research for 8 years before nursing school and also never planned on doing bedside, but got sucked into the idea that as a new grad you have to do bedside. I got a job out of school in the ICU and after 3 months I was unhappy and missed research. Even more, I missed coworkers who liked their jobs. A week ago I started as a research nurse in an outpatient cancer center and I love it.

Congratulations on your new job! I'm so happy to know there is someone else who feels the same way!


26 Posts

Thanks so much to all the research nurses who posted on this thread. It was incredibly helpful! I just applied to a research position and wondered what to expect. I am not sure I will be called since I do not have research experience.



1 Post

Hey everyone,

I am a new ADN grad. I am having trouble finding a job and am thinking that going back to school might help me along the way. I have been interested in nursing research since I began in an LPN program. I have no experience in research but would love to work with some type of cancer research. Most colleges that I have looked at offer the usual NP, nurse midwifery, etc courses. Those don't seem like the options I need, but I have yet to see any kind of option for research education? Does anyone have any ideas as to how to get started or where to look?