The nursing landscape has been dominated by popular opinion and “inside-the-box” career thinking for years. You’ve probably heard it all before:

“If you’re looking to get off your feet, become a case management nurse.”
“Oh, if you want to work from home, you’ve got to become a triage nurse.”
“Looking for that next level of patient care? Shovel out some money and become a nurse practitioner!”

What if I told you there is an area of nursing that provides all of the above and bolsters one of the best available career ladders? It might sound too good to be true, but hear me out! It’s time to consider a clinical research nursing position.

What is Clinical Research?

To better understand the opportunities available to nurses in this area of focus, it’s important to recognize what, exactly, clinical research is. Pharmaceutical and medical device companies go through many steps to ensure a product is safe and effective. One of those steps is clinical research! Clinical research occurs when investigational products, such as pharmaceuticals or medical devices, are tested on humans. During this phase of product development, organizations want to ensure these products are safe for humans and ensure they do what they are supposed to do.

What Opportunities are There for Nurses in Clinical Research?

Nurses play a huge part in the clinical research process. As a research nurse, you will be at the forefront of new medical discoveries that treat and/or cure numerous diseases. You will traditionally work in a hospital setting, and support ongoing pharmaceutical and medical device clinical research studies for big companies like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic. In addition to providing and coordinating clinical care, you play a vital role in ensuring participant safety, maintaining the integrity of protocol implementation and conducting data collection and validation.

How Can Nurses Prepare to Transition into a CRN Role?

To increase your chances of successfully transitioning to a career in clinical research as a nurse, you should work towards earning your bachelor of science in nursing. Clinical research is an ever-changing industry;employers will look for someone who has worked in a busy environment, and who has great examples of when they dealt with change. Additionally, there is a ton of technology that is intertwined with the studies you will be working on. Research teams will need someone who can quickly pick-up on the multiple databases and systems you will need to navigate.

Getting Started

With all of that in mind, where do you start your search to become a clinical research nurse? First, search in your own backyard! Many times nurses do not know that clinical research is conducted at their current facility. If so, go meet with a clinical research manager or principal investigator (the doctor conducting clinical research studies) and talk to them about openings. Second, join your local ACRP or SoCRA chapter. These are networking chapters where you can meet people in the industry. Lastly, find a local clinical research recruiter in your area. Clinical research recruiters are market experts that can help prepare you prepare your application, connect you with job opportunities and, ultimately, secure your first clinical research job

Once you land that first role in clinical research, the sky’s the limit! As you build experience over time, new opportunities to move into a variety of roles will emerge. These roles can include, but are not limited to: clinical research monitor, medical science liaison and nurse educator. The old way of thinking about careers in nursing is changing as rapidly as our healthcare system. If you’re looking to expand your opportunities and impact more patients than ever before, consider making the move to clinical research!

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