Research Nurse

What is a Research Nurse?

In the last century, the field of medical science has advanced drastically due to medical and pharmaceutical research. Without this research, countless patients would die each year from minor illnesses and ailments. Today, scientists, physicians, nurses, specialists, and other kinds of medical professionals represent the primary driving force behind medical research. Research nurses carry out scientific research in different areas of health, such as illness, pharmaceuticals, treatment methods, and healthcare methods with the primary goal of improving healthcare delivery for better patient outcomes. Research nurses, also known as nurse researchers, employ the scientific method to design and implement scientific studies, analyze data, and outline their findings to others in the medical science community. The field of medical research can indeed be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. However, those that enter it should be prepared to face a significant deal of stress, and at times, outright opposition.

What are some of the Duties of a Research Nurse?

Some of the duties of a research nurse include, but aren't limited to:

  • Examining research findings published in medical journals
  • Planning and implementing research studies
  • Organizing, overseeing, or assisting in clinical trials of new treatment methods or medications
  • During research studies - closely monitoring progress of experimental group vs control group
  • Collecting and analyzing research data
  • Writing grant applications in order to secure funding for research
  • Observing, studying, and caring for patients who are suffering from a particular kind of disease or ailment
  • Locating and assessing suitable clinical test subjects
  • Examining patients' physical health and medical histories
  • Reporting/presenting findings of research to fellow colleagues
  • Writing research report articles in nursing and medical journals or other research publications

Do Research Nurses need an RN Degree?

Research nurses are required to hold an active and unencumbered RN license, and due to the complex nature of the job, will generally hold a graduate degree in nursing (such as an MSN). These nurses will also need some research experience to obtain one of the many research certifications available.

How to Become a Research Nurse

Successful research nurses should be extremely dedicated to their work and be fully prepared to take on anything and everything that the profession throws their way. Not only should research nurses have the standard education and training of a traditional RN, but they also must have an intimate understanding of informatics as well as the scientific research and data collection and analysis process. If you believe that you possess the appropriate skill set and are up to the challenge for a career as a research nurse, you must acquire the proper education, experience, and credentials to find employment in this vast field.

Educational Requirements

Becoming a research nurse won't happen overnight. Individuals who have this career in their sights should expect to undergo years of training and experience. To begin this long journey, the first step you will need to take is to earn your associate's degree in nursing or bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). With a degree in hand, you can take the NCLEX-RN to obtain licensure. Nurses at this stage may choose to gain some experience, but many nurse researchers go on to earn an advanced nursing degree, generally an MSN, and sometimes even a Ph.D. in nursing. Throughout the graduate degree programs, prospective research nurses will undergo specialized training in data collection, informatics, research equipment, and scientific research. They will also gain some experience in writing research reports, scholarly articles, and grant proposals.

Required Certifications/Credentials

There are two main organizational bodies that offer certifications in clinical research. They are the Association of Clinical Research Professionals and the Society for Clinical Research Associates. Bear in mind that these organizations do not only offer credentials and certifications just to nursing professionals but professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Apart from an advanced degree like an MSN or Ph.D. in Nursing and having an active RN license, additional certifications are in many cases not required to find employment as a research nurse. In some cases, however, employers will prefer candidates who have earned the Certified Clinical Research Professional (CCRP) certification which is offered by the Society for Clinical Research Associates. In order to be eligible for this certification, candidates are required to have at least two years of experience working in clinical research.

The Association of Clinical Research Professionals also offers a number of certifications in clinical research. These include the Clinical Research Associate Certification, the Clinical Research Coordinator Certification, the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) Certified Professional, and the ACRP Project Manager Subspecialty. These certifications have varying eligibility requires, but typically involve having some experience in professional clinic research and an active, unencumbered RN license.

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Research Nurse Jobs, Salary & Employment

Prospective research nurses should be prepared for the fact that not everyone will see their research as a good thing. Many will inevitably have moral qualms with specific kinds of research and the methods used to conduct it. You should also be aware that work may be somewhat unsteady and fickle in this area since it relies on funding and grants from varying organizations. Sometimes, research nurses will find themselves looking for a new job once a research project has ended or funding has dried up.

Job Description

  • Essential Skills Needed - Excellent communication skills, patience, attention to detail, ability to work alone and in teams, keen observational sense, ability to analyze statistics, and strong scientific writing skills
  • Job Outlook - The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment rates for RNs to increase by 16% between 2014 and 2024. For research nurses, since their employment is based off research grants and funding from outside organizations, employment rates are much more difficult to determine
  • Employers - Universities, medical research organizations, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, research labs, government agencies, and teaching hospitals

What is the Salary of a Research Nurse?

PayScale has reported that the average hourly wage for is around $30.97, whereas the median annual salary for research nurses is about $70,000. How much a research nurse is paid will depend upon factors like their certifications, education level, city and state they're in, the employing organization, the kind of research they're doing (i.e. pharmaceutical, etc.), and experience in the field. Similar factors will play into the kind of employment benefits that they receive like medical, dental, vision, prescription, and life insurance. Many employers will include these in employee benefit packages along with a few weeks of paid time off each year.