Journal of Professional Nursing

The informed consent process in randomised controlled trials: A nurse-led approach

Pip Cresswell, RN, MS, Clinical Research Nurse, Wellington Hospital, Wellington, NZ
Jean Gilmour, RN, PhD, Senior Lecturer, College of Health, Massey University, Wellington, NZ

Reference:  Cresswell, P., & Gilmour, J. (2014). The informed consent process in randomised controlled trial: A nurse-led process. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 30(1), 17-2. 


Clinical trials are carried out with human participants to answer questions about the best way to diagnose, treat and prevent illness.  Participants must give informed consent to take part in clinical trials that requires understanding of how clinical trials work and their purpose.  Randomised controlled trials provide strong evidence but their complex design is difficult for both clinicians and participants to understand.  Increasingly, ensuring informed consent in randomised controlled trials has become part of the clinical research nurse role.  The aim of this study was to explore in depth the clinical research nurse role in the informed consent process using a qualitative descriptive approach.  Three clinical research nurses were interviewed and data analysed using a thematic analysis approach.  Three themes were identified to describe the process of ensuring informed consent.  The first theme, Preparatory partnerships, canvassed the relationships required prior to initiation of the informed consent process.  The second theme, Partnering the participant, emphasises the need for ensuring voluntariness and understanding, along with patient advocacy.  The third theme, Partnership with the project, highlights the clinical research nurse contribution to the capacity of the trial to answer the research question through appropriate recruiting and follow up of participants.  Gaining informed consent in randomised controlled trials was complex and required multiple partnerships.  A wide variety of skills was used to protect the safety of trial participants and promote quality research.  The information from this study contributed to a greater understanding of the clinical research nurse role, and suggests the informed consent process in trials can be a nurse-led one.  In order to gain collegial, employer and industry recognition it is important this aspect of the nursing role is acknowledged.

nurse-led process, informed consent, randomised controlled trials, clinical research nurse


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