Why is research so hard to get into?


I am a RN with 7 years of hospital experience. I graduated in Feb with my BSN. I've applied and interviewed at a few research companies. Most companies say that I do not have the skills they are looking for. However, I have quite a few friends who are nurses who were able to get into the field of research (clinical research associate, and clinical research coordinator), with just hospital based nursing experience. One of them was a few years ago and one was this year. It seems like there are no entry level positions out there. There are tons of level 1 and level 2 positions available though. What exactly are potential employers looking for? Do they want certification? Or an associate degree in research?

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Have you asked what qualifications they are looking for? I know that I have participated in research studies when I was a staff nurse by letting the residents know I was interested. It got my name out there for having first hand experience with research studies. Would this be an option for you?


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Part of the problem in finding research RN positions is because we tend to restrict our searches to "Companies". I am currently the senior research RN at a research clinic at a medical school in NYC. My research experience prior to this position was at a psychiatric research center within a psychiatric hospital. My non-research hospital experience was in oncology and psychiatry.

Nursing school did little to prepare me to even look for a position in research. The research course covered a lot of textbook "methods" and "statistical models" which have little to do with the day to day real work done by research nurses. I get contacted by a lot of head hunters because of the experience I picked up on the job. These people don't want to see you if you don't have the experience.

Research nursing is as diverse as any other discipline in nursing. I am constantly striving to keep up with what is current. When I am hiring a nurse for research, the qualities I look for are basic RN competencies, flexibility, initiative (ability to self-start is a must), and adaptability (remember I said it is a very diverse field).

As you noted, there are not a ton of entry level positions in this arena. So look for a research position that matches your experience like "oncology" for example. Research is being conducted in almost every area like "diabetes", "kidney disease", "infectious diseases". Mostly demonstrate a willingness to learn.