Nurse researchers are scientists who perform investigations in diverse aspects of medical related problems such as illnesses and health care services. As they develop scientific studies, nurse researchers are professional individuals who are responsible for improving the health of individuals so that there will be better health care outcomes. They often work in an academic setting, hospital or independent professional or community service agency (Nurse Researcher, n.d).

Sadly many, including many other nurses, are unaware of the responsibilities that nurse researchers undertake with regard to research projects in today's medical landscape - let's try to change that.

Develop study protocol

The first phase that a nurse researcher goes through when working on a research project is the development of study protocols (Gleason, 2013) - this usually takes place after he/she has managed to identify the potential problems, and has also acquired sufficient literature reviews.

To design a study protocol, nurses need to take consider many important factors, such as the types of clinical data needed and whether phlebotomy will be required in the study. It is very common to see nurse researchers helping scientists to gather the required information from the patients (participants) with regard to the project.

Write informed consent

Right after the study protocol has been developed, the nurse researcher’s next task is to ensure that a Patient Information Sheet (PIS) and consent forms are written (Gleason, 2013). The PIS comes with complete information required by law that will be shared with potential research participants.

Nurse researchers must have a good understanding about the research itself and the laws constituted in the informed consent, as well as the ability to communicate with patients, thus they are the most eligible to formulate the PIS and consent forms. By providing informed consent, participants are agreeing that they have been given detailed information about the research purpose, its procedures, data collection, any potential harm and the benefits of the study.

Upon briefing the participants, they have a right to withdraw from the study if they do not agree with the terms and are unwilling to participate.

Obtain study approval

Before conducting a research and recruiting the participants, nurse researchers need to obtain approval from the agency’s human subjects committee or institutional review board (IRB). An IRB may include scientists and professionals who will review all the studies and / or research projects that were conducted in the institutions to ensure that it follows ethical principles. To obtain this study approval, nurse researchers need to complete the application forms and submit these accordingly to the appropriate authorities for review and approval.

Recruit patients

Once the study approval has been obtained, nurse researchers proceed with the process of recruiting patients to be study participants. Usually, they will use hospital notes or records as a screening tool, or attend meetings with a Multi Disciplinary Team (MDT) to figure out the right candidates for each study.

Given that getting a patient’s consent to participate in the study is no easy task, managing to do so is considered a great success and source of pride to these nurse researchers.

In many cases, it can be challenging, especially if forced to conduct their study in busy areas within the hospital such as in clinics and wards. To overcome this, a nurse researcher will attempt to develop tools and find solutions to ease efforts required in approaching qualified patients, and attempt to increase the probability of successful recruitment. 

Data collection and reporting

Subsequently, recruited patients will be forwarded to clinical trials and to attend all necessary visits. All important data will be collected and reported. Nurse researchers need to ensure the data collected is accurate and complete as it will be necessary in determining the study outcome. If there is lack of accuracy compliance to a protocol and data collection, the study would be meaningless.

Sample or tissue collection, processing

Currently, the prerequisites of being a nurse researcher is the ability to perform lab procedures since most samples taken from patients are carefully kept and managed in the lab. For instance, a centrifuge is used to process blood samples, while serum and plasma are batched into aliquots and frozen for the next analysis.

As such, phlebotomy skills are among the initial skills that they must have when they wish to work as a nurse researcher. Hence, they will need to attend surgical procedures if they are assigned to collect biopsy tissue. With that, handling the samples taken requires the nurse researcher to be alert and focused as proper care is needed, particularly when processing and storing samples. Once the analysis of samples has been completed, the results will later be presented as a study outcome.

All in all, nurse researchers are necessary for a research project to be successful. It is their responsibility to ensure that all aspects of a study are kept relevant at every stage of the project, ie from developing the study protocol to analysing the samples. For nurses who enjoy working on research projects, analysing data, writing reports and being a part of the health industry’s development, a position as a nurse researcher could be one of immense satisfaction. MIMS

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Gleason, K. (2013). What is a research nurse and what do they do? Retrieved from
Nurse Researcher. (n.d). Retrieved from researcher/