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Clinical nurses' understanding of the role of the clinical research nurse in the renal unit

23 February 2023
Volume 32 · Issue 4


Clinical research nurses (CRNs) have been recognised as drivers of success in the conduct of clinical research and clinical trials. However, despite its popularity as a career option, the CRN role is unclear and misunderstood by most clinical nurses. A survey questionnaire was developed and distributed to clinical nurses in the renal unit of a large London hospital to ascertain their understanding of the role of the CRN. Although about 90% of clinical colleagues believed that research was beneficial to patients, a significant proportion (40%) misunderstood the role and 60% were found to have limited or basic understanding. Lack of communication between the CRN and clinical nurses, and research information dissemination emerged as the major contributing factors for this. Developing an approach to address this issue to bridge the gap between these two key nursing specialties is pivotal not only to increase research output but also to augment research awareness and improve working relationships.

The role of clinical research nurse (CRN) is pivotal to the success of research, and modern-day conduct of research and clinical trials requires dedicated staff. Those in the role not only have clinical nursing responsibilities, but are also required to have knowledge and understanding of research protocols and governance in conducting and managing all aspects of clinical research and trials.

The popularity of the CRN role as a career option has grown significantly over the past decade. However, there is limited information concerning the perception of the CRN role, the responsibilities of postholders and their contribution to the NHS. Consequently, the role remains widely misunderstood by many healthcare colleagues. The familiarity and overlapping nature of nursing duties and responsibilities contributes to this misunderstanding, making it easy to overlook the significant differences between one nursing role and another.

The clinical nurse, who is a registered nurse in clinical practice, and the CRN are equally important nursing specialties, and an understanding of both roles is essential to ensure that their work is complementary. Over the years, many healthcare institutions have taken on more clinical research studies and trials, requiring collaboration between registered nurses in clinical practice and CRNs. This partnership is crucial to patient recruitment, engagement and retention in clinical trials (ie to promoting a positive patient experience) and to the research delivery and output as a whole.

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