How to Become a Research Nurse

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Written by Ayana Dunn, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Research nurse using a tablet

Advances in nursing couldn’t happen without the impact of clinical research, and the research nurses working behind the scenes to improve the quality of healthcare. Research nurses explore topics such as how nurse staffing ratios impact patient mortality in long term care facilities, the impact of radiation exposure on oncology nurses, or the likelihood of physical injury to nurses across many settings.

If you’re interested in a non-bedside nursing position, becoming a research nurse could be your first step on a path to making positive impacts in the nursing profession. Read on to explore what research nurses do and how to become a research nurse.

What Is a Research Nurse and What Does a Research Nurse Do?

Research nurses are a part of clinical research teams that conduct experiments to improve the quality of nursing and the patient experience. Tasks include:

  • Acting as liaisons and advocates for patients participating in trials
  • Data collection
  • Preparing medications and other tools used in the experiment
  • Monitoring for side effects
  • Documentation
  • Applying for grants to fund the research
  • Contributing articles to research journals

Required Education to Become a Research Nurse

Understanding the education requirements is an important aspect of planning how to become a research nurse. The specialty requires a BSN for some entry-level jobs, but most of these nurses will need an advanced degree if they are looking for upward mobility down the line. Many research nurses acquire their master of science in nursing (MSN), doctor of nursing practice (DNP), or doctor of philosophy (PhD).

Research Nurse Certification

Although nursing research certification isn’t necessary to become a research nurse, it may increase your job prospects by showing commitment to the field. Some nursing research certifications are not unique to nurses but are for clinical researchers as a whole. Examples include:

  • Certified Clinical Research Certification
  • Clinical Research Associate Certification
  • Clinical Research Coordinator Certification
  • American Board of Nursing Specialties — Clinical Research Nurse Certification
  • Society of Clinical Research Associates — Clinical Research Certification

What Are Some Good Research Skills to Develop?

Honing these qualities will increase the odds of success on your path of how to become a research nurse:

Attention to detail: These nurses must closely monitor patients for any changes or side effects, pay attention to data trends, administer exact amounts of medication, and other tasks requiring close attention to detail to ensure the experiment is conducted safely.

Clear communication: Research nurses must ensure the test subjects are given informed consent, discuss findings with other members of the team, and convince potential donors to fund research projects. They may also be responsible for communicating orders such as labs or medications to the bedside nurse for study participants in the hospital. Many studies are time-sensitive, so nurse researchers must provide clear communication so orders are carried out appropriately.

Integrity: Honesty, responsibility, and reliability are some of the traits necessary to ensure ethics are upheld in clinical research. Even after a research trial is approved by an institutional review board (IRB), ethical concerns may arise. It’s the nurse’s responsibility to advocate for the patient’s rights as a human subject of research when needed.

Writing skills: Research nurses must write grants to fund their experiments, contribute to medical journals, and be able to clearly and accurately describe the experiment when presenting the research to those who would benefit from the findings.

Analytical thinking: They must think critically to find correlations between data, contribute to planning the research methodology, and be able to present the research in ways that are understandable to a variety of lay people.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Research Nurse?

How long it may take to attain your career goal can greatly impact the way you go about how to become a research nurse. Although it depends on your educational and career paths, becoming a research nurse can take at least four years. You must obtain your BSN, gain some bedside experience, and eventually obtain an advanced degree.

Where Can a Research Nurse Work?

Research nurses can work in a variety of locations that include:

  • Government agencies
  • Teaching hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Medical manufacturing
  • Research organizations

Research Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, research nurses, also known as medical scientists, earn a median of $95,310 per year, and employment is projected to grow 17% over the next decade, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations.

Ready to Research?

This valuable career path is both rewarding and innovative. Remember, an important part of how to become a research nurse is to have bedside experience. Need help with that? Get the hands-on experience you need by joining IntelyCare today.