Clinical Research Nurse

There are not only many different ways a nurse can specialize, but also many different career paths that a nurse can take beyond treating patients. Becoming a clinical research nurse (CRN) is a unique pathway that might interest you if you are interested in scientific research or are passionate about keeping up with the ever evolving field of medicine.

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Medical research is constant in healthcare as diseases are studied, and new treatments or new drugs are developed and tested. Research nurses can be a part of this and contribute in many ways. They might work for universities, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, or private researchers. They are an important part of the process, as they enroll, screen, and follow study subjects, while documenting all results and keeping careful records. Like regular nursing, they will be an important source of information for study subjects, explaining the study, answering questions and addressing concerns. Research nurses with advanced degrees will also be able to teach or write articles on research findings for professional journals. Procuring funds and grant money and writing grant proposals is another aspect of working as a research nurse. Regardless of their roles and levels of responsibility, they are ultimately contributing to research and helping people get better medical care in a more efficient healthcare system.

If you are interested in research nursing, you will need to complete a great deal of nursing education. To first become a nurse, you should pursue an accredited nursing program. The quickest way to do this is to earn either an associate degree. An associate degree in nursing (ADN) or an associate of science in nursing (ASN) takes two to three years. This is a fast path toward becoming a registered nurse, and it can later be applied toward a four-year bachelor’s degree, which may be necessary for most jobs in research nursing. A diploma program offered by certain hospitals is also an option, although they are increasingly less common. A bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) is ideal however, and will usually be required to work as a research nurse. If you have already earned a degree in another field and want to pursue nursing, some nursing schools have accelerated BSN programs for those who have already earned a degree. After you finish your degree, the final step toward becoming an RN is to pass he NCLEX-RN exam (National Council Licensure Examination) given by your state’s board of nursing. Many nurses working in research have a master’s and even doctoral degree. If you earn a master’s degree and become a clinical research nurse, you can become even more involved in clinical research programs and their development.

Be sure to check out professional organizations for the chance to learn more about this profession and the opportunity for conferences, networking, and continuing education. The National Institute of Nursing Research and the International Association of Clinical Research Nurses are two examples. The National Institute of Health developed the National Institute of Nursing Research to ensure that the next generation of nurses continues to contribute to medical research.

Research Nurse Certification

The Clinical Center Nursing at the National Institutes of Health has been working to define the clinical research nursing. As of 2010, one of the tools they are considering in defining the specialty is implementing a national certification for clinical research nurses. More can be found regarding clinical research nurse certification on the NIH Clinical Center website. The Society of Clinical Research Associates (SoCRA) is really the sole provider of certification for clinical research professionals. SoCRA offers the Certified Clinical Research Professional (C.C.R.P.) certification. There are 3 different eligibility requirements to sit for the certification exam. Visit the Society of Clinical Research Associates website to learn more about the Research Nurse certification process.

Clinical Research Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

Nurse researchers are some of the highest paid nurses. According to Scrubs magazine, the average salary for a nurse researcher is $95,000. According to, the national average is closer to $66,000. Pay will of course vary based on employer, geographic location, and job duties. Salary will also climb with advanced education, certification and more research experience. Like healthcare, nurse research positions will continue to expand as medical research advances. Research nurses can also advance their careers to become research assistants, and clinical data coordinators. The clinical research nursing job becomes more and more autonomous with experience and advanced education. With the pinnacle of the career being arriving at the level where you are a leader in the field generating funding sources for new and on-going studies, designing studies and study protocols, and presenting findings at medical and nursing educational panels, workshops and related sessions. This is a career with a great future, but it does require a solid nursing education, so be sure to find the right nursing program for you to get started or advance your research nursing career.

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(Sources: International Association of Clinical Research Nurses, National Institute of Nursing Research)