How to Become a Clinical Research Nurse

Clinical research is an exciting field with a good outlook for the future. It is quite competitive and encompasses several career opportunities. One such opportunity is that of clinical research nursing. The career path for a clinical research nurse will vary from one nurse to another, but there are factors common to everyone pursuing a career as a clinical research nurse.

As with any position in medicine, it is important to begin planning and preparing for success as early as possible. Early preparation will help lay the foundation for success in the chosen field. Science courses such as biology, chemistry, and physics are good preparation for nursing school and should be completed in high school if they are part of your school’s curriculum. Some schools also participate in the Advanced Placement (AP) Program, which allows students to enroll in college-level courses. If your school does not participate, it may be possible to enroll in AP courses through independent or online study. Another option would be to bypass the course and take the exam if you believe that you are proficient in the subject matter. One advantage to AP courses is that they are an impressive addition to any college application.

Anyone wishing to become a nurse must attend and successfully complete a training program such as nursing school. The minimal requirement for acceptance into a program is a high school diploma or GED. In addition, many nursing schools require the National League for Nursing (NLN) Pre-Admission Exam as well as good scores on the ACT or the SAT. Before beginning the search for an accredited school, it is important to determine the type of nursing credentials you desire. This decision will determine the appropriate training path to take.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) traditionally takes four years to complete. Some colleges and universities offer a BSN. Alternatively, community and technical colleges may offer an Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN); this curriculum takes two to three years to complete. A third option has become less common but is still available. This is the hospital diploma plan, which also takes two to three years. With this option, your training would take place in the hospital, where you would work with nurses and educators.

After completing the chosen training path, you must successfully complete the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). If you are interested in additional education, consider a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Master of Public Health (MPH).

After becoming a nurse, it may be possible to go into the field of clinical research right away. Normally, new nurses are required to work in a hospital for at least a year in order to acquire the necessary hands-on skills with patients, but in some cases, it may be possible to bypass this step. Although most employers also prefer candidates with some experience in research, nurses who lack this experience but are otherwise good candidates sometimes find employment in academia or with a clinical research organization (CRO). The actual job titles include research coordinator, clinical research coordinator, and clinical research associate.

The responsibilities of a clinical research nurse include evaluating clinical protocols to ensure that they are safe and feasible, developing ways to implement the new protocols, and protecting the participants (research subjects) in the clinical trials. Candidates for this highly specialized field of nursing should have compassion, people skills, and the ability to deal with stressful situations.


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