What is a Research Nurse?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2019
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A research nurse is a nurse who participates in clinical studies, with a degree of participation ranging from coordinating and administering studies on behalf of their designers to organizing and running studies independently. Research nurses typically have a master's or doctoral degree in nursing, with some nursing schools specifically offering research nursing as a specialty, along with years of experiencing in the nursing community. At a minimum, a research nurse is a registered nurse (RN) with at least a year of experience as a nurse.

Medical research is constantly underway to research things like new drugs and treatment protocols, new diseases, and new methods of handling everything from operating room safety to patient intake. Research nurses are often a critical part of a research team, handling administration, dealing with grant writing, and interacting with patients. Patients in a study often have a research nurse as a contact, and the nurse performs physicals, intake interviews, medical testing, and other tasks related to the study, in addition to obtaining informed consent from participants.


Some research nurses work in academic settings such as teaching hospitals and nursing schools, using their expertise to advance medicine as a whole, in addition to medical education. Research nurses can also work for government agencies, along with private companies which conduct medical studies. Drug and medical device companies tend to offer the best pay and benefits, but all settings give research nurses a chance to interact with noted researchers and physicians while working at the forefront of modern medical care.

This nursing job can be highly demanding. It is not uncommon for a research nurse to be working with several studies, some of which may be very complex, and research nurses may have regular hours, but they are on call for patients at all times. Patients and participants with concerns, questions, and emerging medical problems often call the research nurse first, because they have been directed to do so, which can add considerably to the burden of a nurse who is already working very hard during scheduled work hours.

Research nursing can also be very rewarding. Nurses have an opportunity to establish rich, long-term relationships with patients and to monitor their progress and lives over the course of a study and the follow ups. The opportunity to work with leading members of the medical field can also be very valuable, and it gives research nurses very useful work experience which will allow them to get hired almost anywhere they care to apply.


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Post 2

@Engelbert - Becoming a research nurse does take an extensive amount of schooling. First you’ll need to become an RN (Registered Nurse) which will take you about four years and then you’ll need to look at getting a Master’s diploma or even a doctoral degree. It is in all likelihood perhaps the hardest avenues of nursing to pursue because it takes a lot of years to work your way up, but if it’s something you feel passionate about you have to be prepared to put in the work. It’s certainly challenging but hugely rewarding at the same time.

My advice to you would be to decide first of all if nursing is really what you want to do. If so, then spend the time in school to become an RN and if you’re still interested in going into research then the option is always available. Do not be concerned about your age, you’re not too old for anything.

Post 1

I’ve been doing a lot of research into nursing as it’s a career I’m pretty interested in pursuing, but little did I know that there’s so many different avenues of nursing you can pick from. Becoming a research nurse sounds especially interesting because it sounds like you’d be at the forefront of medical development and get to witness firsthand the development of medications and other methods of treatment for human ailments. I like the idea of combining the hands-on experience of caring for people with medical advancement.

One thing I am concerned about though is how much schooling it’ll actually take. I’m 21 so I’m worried I might have left it too late. How many years of schooling am I facing?

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