Journal of Professional Nursing

Towards clarification of the role of research nurses in New Zealand: A literature review

Jeanette Bell, RN, MN, Clinical Charge Nurse, ICU and HDU, North Shore Hospital, Auckland

Reference:  Bell, J. (2009). Towards clarification of the role of research nurses in New Zealand: A literature review. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 25(1), 4-16.


The demand for research nurses has increased markedly in recent years due to a rapidly expanding clinical research environment. Research nursing is becoming increasingly specialised and nurses now hold central positions in the coordination of clinical trials and management of trial related patient care. However, as a role in transition, research nursing is currently under-recognised and has yet to establish a clear identity and position for itself within nursing and within research. Therefore, the aim of this literature review is to describe the current role of research nurses in clinical trials and explore the professional issues surrounding the role. To provide greater clarification of the role in New Zealand, these findings are examined against the Nursing Council of New Zealand competency requirements for registered nurses. In examining the professional issues surrounding the role, current barriers to adequate recognition of the role are identified and potential strategies to clarify the role and the position of research nurses are put forward. 

Research nursing, research co-ordinator, clinical research, clinical trials. centre randomised controlled trials  

Research nurses (also referred to as clinical research nurses, research or study co-ordinators, or research assistants) are nurses employed to assist in the management and conduct of clinical trials and clinical research. They are found across a wide range of clinical and research settings, in roles that vary from simple data collection to complex study coordination or leadership positions. Most commonly, research nurses are involved in biomedical studies that evaluate therapeutic interventions such as drugs, devices, and clinical practices. The trials can range from large commercial multi-to small observational studies or audits of practice. Research nurses are distinct from nurse researchers, with the title ‘nurse researcher' generally referring to those practicing as independent researchers and leading nursing focused research, often as an academic post. Over the past 20-25 years there has been rapid expansion in biomedical research and the science of clinical trials, with a significant increase in the number and complexity of clinical trials. As a result, the demand for ....cont.

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