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What Do Clinical Research Nurses Do?

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Have you seriously considered leaving the bedside? Or how about finding yourself saying out loud that you need a break. When was the last time you thought that it might be time for something new? Clinical research nursing is a newer specialty. And it is growing fast. 

Clinical Research Nurses (CRNs), and nurses in other positions involved with clinical studies, use their nursing experience to help facilitate medical research studies. Nurses in clinical research have varied responsibilities, from patient education to data collection and documentation. Nurses today play integral roles in medical research opportunities.

The modern nurse in clinical research is shaping the future of medicine and making a difference in patient outcomes. Sounds interesting right? Clinical research nursing is not the boring, pouring over statistics, and never seeing patients job that you may have had in mind.

What Do Clinical Research Nurses Do

Clinical research nursing is a practice specialty focusing on the care of research participants.

Clinical research nurses perform many essential functions in a clinical trial, including:

  • Providing hands-on care, including venipuncture, injections, or infusions
  • Assuring subject safety
  • Maintaining informed consent
  • Ensuring protocol integrity
  • Collecting and organizing study data
  • Following up with participants

Some clinical studies evaluate investigational drugs. Other trials may involve an experimental procedure or surgery. Clinical research nurses work alongside doctors and researchers to make these studies successful.

Clinical Research Nursing Practice

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has been instrumental in developing the specialty of clinical research nursing. In 2011, they published the Clinical Research Nursing Model of Care to define the scope and accountability of clinical research nurses. As the field grows, more doors are opening for nurses looking for a way to make a difference.

Both registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) can find clinical research positions. Nurses can fill so many roles in study research, from investigators to coordinators.

Clinical Research Positions

A quick search of clinical research nurse positions shows an active market for nurses interested in clinical research. Nurses can find remote work, bedside work, or travel positions. Some jobs are for prepping and dosing participants. In contrast, other clinical study opportunities are heavier in writing and research. There truly is something for everyone in this specialty.

One example of a clinical research job is the Clinical Trial Educator (CTE) position. Research organizations developed this role to overcome costly barriers in clinical research. Contract Research Organizations (CROs), sometimes known as Clinical Research Organizations, spend $50,000 or more to open a study site. Unfortunately, a 2017 study showed that 25-30% of study sites never enroll a subject. Smart companies discovered that having a nurse CTE to educate patients and doctors about the science leads to better enrollment. 

Nurses can find new and exciting opportunities in clinical research to build on the skills and experience (like patient education) that they already have.

What do Clinical Research Nurses Make?

According to Zip Recruiter, the average annual salary for a clinical research nurse is $74,906 as of September 12, 2021. An hourly wage would be about $36 per hour.

Moreover, the field of clinical research offers great advancement opportunities. Big companies need qualified clinical research nurses. Some clinical research nurses make over $100,000/year. And there are opportunities in most cities across the US.

Where Can Clinical Research Nurses Work?

Many medical centers have dedicated clinical research units. Some clinical trial sites are smaller but offer more opportunities to gain skills within a smaller team. Pharmaceutical companies and government organizations need nurses too. Clinical research nurses can work at hospitals, outpatient clinics, education institutions, and even in home healthcare. 

Virtual trials are the latest development in clinical research. Some companies are taking the clinical research to the subject’s home rather than sending the participants to a study site. A move to decentralize clinical trials is giving nurses even more chances to try something new.

How to Become a Clinical Research Nurse?

In some cases, being a nurse is enough to get an entry-level clinical research position. Some job postings will say “research experience is required,” but companies have been known to make exceptions for nurses. 

With clinical trial experience, nurses can advance in their field by gaining certifications. The Society for Clinical Research Associates and the Association for Clinical Research Professionals offer clinical research certifications for nurses. 

What Do Clinical Research Nurses Say About Their Job?

recent study authored by a pediatric research nurse explored the experiences of nurses transitioning to a Clinical Research Nurse (CRN) position. One significant finding was that research nurses experienced high levels of job satisfaction and an improved work-life balance.

Yet, like all aspects of nursing, it is a labor of love. One research nurse described another side of clinical research nursing. She said it’s like being “the glue that holds everything together.” The responsibility of balancing patient safety, the integrity of the study, and compliance can be heavy. 

But like any nursing job, the old saying is true. “Do what you’ll love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.”   


Now you see how today’s nurses have an exciting opportunity to affect the future of medicine through clinical research nursing. From data collection and organization to direct patient care, clinical research nurses define the specialty and find new ways to practice nursing care.

Would you consider an exciting job in clinical research? Now, what about you. Do you think it’s time for you to switch to one of these specialties? Join the conversation and tell us what you think. And don’t forget to sign up for your monthly feel good #nursenews update delivered straight to your inbox.

Sarah Falcone BSN, RN

Sarah Falcone BSN, RN


Sarah S. Falcone BSN, RN is a dedicated nurse based in Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX. Her first nursing gig, was night-shift floor nurse in women's services (PP, L&D, nursery). Through a series of fortunate events, she found home health and a passion for helping seniors age in place. Connect with her on LinkedIn.


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