Research Nurse career interviews: research nursing, a career choice with opportunities

Posted on by Kelly Gleason in Professional Development


While browsing the internet one evening, I came across this video about Sara Stearn, a research nurse colleague from my days in Cambridge.  I thought Sara did such a wonderful job of demonstrating how research nursing has offered her many opportunities for growth and development, and that working in clinical research can be a very rewarding part of a career in nursing.

I wrote to Sara to ask if I could post her video in our blog and she sent me these very encouraging words about her journey into research:

“This video I did some 2 or so years ago at Addenbrookes, to promote jobs in the Health Service.  I never liked what I saw, because I was told that the first “take” was a rehearsal, but then when it was done, the producers said that they would use the video as it was – I would have tried to be more articulate and film-worthy if I had known!!

I was originally keen to participate because I am so aware that nurse/research posts are still not generally recognised as being a part of the mainstream workforce, and whilst there are many branches of nursing that ARE known about, clinical research is not one of them.

I am still so happy in my current role, and I am so appreciative of the many skills that the role allows me to exploit – not just nursing, but project management, man-management, medical, clinical and scientific learning, creative thinking, office skills, etc.

I also know that I am particularly lucky in the position in which I find myself, because I am able to engage in both translational research and clinical trials, which provides me with a very full role. Those other colleagues who work purely within a clinical trials setting find their work provides different benefits and disadvantages, and is one which I might find a little constraining, although a more regular routine may be welcomed at times.

Taking the first step into the world of research could be daunting, as the protective cloak of the ward team disappears, but if you are a self-starter, allowing yourself to claim the responsibility of autonomy, with your accrued clinical and management skills, a job as research nurse will soon fill you with a huge sense of satisfaction and confidence.

What else can I say?  I think you can tell that I still enjoy being here, and would recommend a research role to anyone who is genuinely interested.”

This is what I love to see time and time again, nurses taking a courageous step into research and discovering a world that allows them truly to grow as individuals and professionals.  I too feel that the field of clinical research has allowed me to develop skills and abilities – which was somehow not possible in my past clinical roles. And the rewards of working in research have been incredible. I love being part of a team of individuals who have the attitude that they can make things happen and they can shape the care of tomorrow; people who are willing to roll up their sleeves to do and learn what is needed to integrate research and care and successfully manage research projects from start to finish while keeping patients at the heart of all they do.

Thank you Sara for sharing your journey and enthusiasm for this role.  Research nurses have been going about their business for decades now, and research nursing just keeps offering new opportunities for growth and learning.  It may have been a role that some did on route to becoming a clinical nurse specialist, but today, research nursing is a deserving speciality in its own right and by the looks of things the role of the research nurse is here to stay!

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