Purpose and Mission
Clinical research nurses, sometimes called clinical trial nurses or just research nurses, work with doctors and other healthcare professionals to manage clinical trials of new drugs, treatments, surgical procedures and medical devices. Once considered a less-desirable nursing specialty, CRNs today are highly trained professionals in great demand in Australia and across the globe.
In most cases, clinical research nurses will report to the principal investigator of the trial, but sometimes the chain of command is just a nursing supervisor or department head. The day-to-day activities of CRNs in managing a trial and caring for patients involved in the trial are often overseen by a head nurse or physician.
Some clinical trial nurses do have direct supervisory responsibilities, such as overseeing other members of the healthcare team or training new colleagues. Other, less-experienced nurses have minimal supervisory duties.
Clinical research nurses are typically experienced registered nurses (having earned at least a bachelor’s degree). Some worked as general practice nurses or even specialist nurses before deciding to become a CRN.
Like all RNs, CRNs must hold a current Nursing Registration with the AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioners Agency) to work directly with patients.
Unless you already have substantial experience, employers often prefer CRN candidates who have earned one or more professional certifications (such as Good Clinical Practice (GCP) training) relating to clinical trial nursing.
Responsibilities of a Clinical Research Nurse
Clinical research nurses perform a broad range of tasks related to the management of a clinical trial and the ongoing medical care of the research subjects / patients. Of note, the historical division of responsibility between the academic researchers who “conduct the research” and the nurses who “take care of the research subjects” is being broken down, and CRNs today are contributing to the actual trial research on a number of levels.
Some typical activities performed by modern clinical trial nurses include entering and coordinating patient records, preparing daily patient reports and exception or side effect reports, administering medications or fitting devices, and helping to train other nurses on new clinical trial procedures and technologies. CRNs and CTNs with graduate degrees are even starting to participate in the management of some trials, and a few have even been appointed as principal investigators.