Nurse Types / Research Nurse
Are you organized, detailed-oriented, and a critical thinker? You might make a good research nurse. Research nurses study hard to help the medical community discover new medical treatments; medications; and vaccinations. This knowledge builds a foundation for clinical practice.
If you’re wondering how to become a research nurse, you can become a research nurse by getting a nursing degree; passing the NCLEX-RN exam; gaining hands-on experience; earning an MSN or Ph.D.; and obtaining certification.
In this blog, we will explore the following:
- What is a research nurse?
- What does a research nurse do?
- Where do research nurses work?
- What traits should a research nurse have?
- How do you become a research nurse?
- How much do research nurses make?
- Types of research nurse jobs
- Continuing education for research nurses
- Research nurse FAQ’s
What is a research nurse?
Research nurses work to come up with new medical treatments, medications, and vaccinations. They also help care for patients during case studies. Research nurses work with cutting-edge research that provides critical insights into the industry. Their work helps push the nursing and healthcare field forward.
What does a research nurse do?
Most research nurse work can be divided into two types: quantitative research and qualitative research.
This type of research tracks measurable findings. It uses numbers, percentages, and formulas to communicate results. Examples of quantitative data include age, weight, temperature, or the number of people who live with diabetes. Think of quantitative research as the “what, who, when, where” of health-related events.
Qualitative data is non-numerical and qualitative research takes the form of thoughts, perceptions, and experiences. This data can be observed and may involve listening to how people feel. Qualitative data in a healthcare setting might look like measuring organizational change or patient perceptions of quality of care.
Research nurse job description
Tasks performed by research nurses include:
- Coordinating with other researchers for studies
- Educating and training new research staff
- Writing grant applications to receive funding for studies
- Writing articles and research papers in professional medical journals
- Reporting research findings at conferences, meetings, and other types of events
- Keeping records of supplies and medical equipment
- Monitoring research subjects during studies
- Paying attention to the needs and concerns of subjects during the studies
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Where do research nurses work?
Research nurses can choose from a variety of healthcare settings. Research nurse jobs can be found in:
- Government agencies
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Research laboratories
- Biotech laboratories
- Medical clinics
- Research organizations
- Teaching hospitals
- Long-term care facilities
- Insurance providers
- Private foundations
- Home healthcare agencies
What traits should a research nurse have?
Research nurses need to have a wide variety of skills to perform their job well. Unlike many nursing jobs, they don’t have to work with patients directly, which allows them to focus on their research. Some of the traits a research nurse must have are listed below.
Critical thinking skills
This is one of the most important traits a research nurse should possess. They need to know how to analyze facts and synthesize those facts with other information to develop sound inquiries. A nurse’s ability to think outside of the box enables them to create new, cutting-edge information for the healthcare space.
Attention to detail
Research nurses need to understand how to work with the minutiae of information. Their work often deals with data, and they must make precise calculations to develop their findings.
Research nurses should be organized so they can think critically about how to sort and categorize information. They often have a lot of information to process within a given shift. Having the capacity to organize complex information is critical.
How do you become a research nurse?
The path to becoming a research nurse can seem daunting, especially if you’re starting without experience. Research nurses need at least a Master of Science in Nursing or Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing. It’s a long path, but for many people, it’s worth it. To become a research nurse, you must complete the following steps.
Earn a nursing degree
If you don’t have a degree and you are not an RN, take this step first. You can earn either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing to become an RN. If you’re seeking an associate’s degree in nursing, you can complete it at a community college. If you want to earn your bachelor’s degree in nursing, this takes four years at a college or university.
Become an RN
After graduating from a nursing program, you’re ready to take the NCLEX-RN exam. This exam is standardized, and you will receive your RN license upon passing. The test covers eight core areas of care. These include:
- Management of Care/Coordinated Care
- Basic Care and Comfort
- Health Promotion and Maintenance
- Psychosocial Integrity
- Psychological Adaptation
- Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies
- Reduction of Risk Potential
- Safety and Infection Control
The test costs about $200.
Get experience as an RN
Before you move forward in your career as a nurse researcher, it’s helpful to gain experience as an RN. Get a job at a hospital or clinic to get your feet wet in a healthcare setting. Depending on which certification exam you decide to take down the road, you may need to work as an RN in clinical research to be eligible for the exam.
Earn an MSN or Ph.D.
Research nurses must have an advanced degree to practice — either have an MSN or Ph.D. There are accelerated bridge programs available for nurses to pursue to speed up getting an advanced degree. Otherwise, an MSN will take you 18-24 months and a Ph.D. will take 2-3 years.
Obtain a research nurse certification
Research nurses have multiple certifications to choose from, sponsored by organizations such as the:
- Society for Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA)
- Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP)
The Clinical Research Association (CCRA) and Clinical Research Coordinator (CCRC) certifications are both provided by the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP). These standardized exams cost a fee and have detailed eligibility requirements. The exam sponsored by the Society for Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA) is the Certified Clinical Research Professional (CCRP). You must apply and pay a fee to take the exam. One of the exam prerequisites is two years working as a full-time RN conducting clinical research.
How much do research nurses make?
PayScale states that the average clinical research nurse salary is $74,828 per year. Registered nurses earn an average of $80,010 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, salaries will vary greatly based on factors such as education, experience, and location.
Clinical research nurses with less than one year of experience will likely earn an average of $64,489 per year. A mid-career research nurse (5-9 years of experience) may earn an average yearly salary of $72,429. And if you have 20+ years of experience, you might earn $77,600 per year. PayScale lists the highest earning cities for research nurses as New York, New York and Chicago, Illinois.
Types of research nurse jobs
Not all research nurse jobs are alike. You might find work as a:
- Clinical Research Nurse
- Clinical Research Coordinator
- Research Nurse Supervisor
- Research Nurse Practitioner
- Principal Investigator
Each of these positions requires different skills and tasks. It’s helpful to familiarize yourself with each one so you can decide which specialty is right for you.
Continuing education for research nurses
As a research nurse, you will likely need to complete continuing education hours to maintain your RN license. Continuing education requirements will vary based on the state where you practice. Your state board of nursing can provide information about the type of CE hours you’ll need to complete.
Research nurse FAQ’s
To become a research nurse, you’ll need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing to become an RN. This can take anywhere from 2-4 years. You will also need an advanced degree, which could take 2-3 years. Finally, you will need a few years of experience, and a certification. Total, it could take you 5-10 years or more to become a research nurse.
A nurse researcher needs an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing, and an MSN or Ph.D.
According to PayScale, the average clinical research nurse salary is $74,828 per year.
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“Why Do Nurses Need Research?” nursingonline.nsuok.edu. Accessed June 1, 2022.
“Common Data Types in Public Health Research.” ors.od.nih.gov. Accessed June 1, 2022.
“How to Become A Nurse Researcher.” provocollege.edu. Accessed June 1, 2022.
“Society of Clinical Research Associates.” socra.org. Accessed June 1, 2022.
“Average Clinical Research Nurse Salary.” payscale.com. Accessed June 1, 2022.
“Registered Nurses.” bls.gov. Accessed June 1, 2022.