Research nurse: comparison of role in various countries

Posted on by Kelly Gleason in Professional Development, Research

I recently read an article written by Sandra Brinkman-Denney, a graduate student in the USA, who was carrying out a review of the literature to show evidence that the scope of the research nurses’ advanced specialty role met ANA’s Standard 13.  She investigated the similarities and differences between research nurses worldwide.  In her literature review, she compared the role of research nurses from North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region and here is what she found.

The first thing she found was that were many titles for this role.  In the USA they referred to the nurse who focused on the care of the research participant the Clinical Research Nurse whereas the individual who focused more on data collection, protocol adherence and recruitment was called the Research Nurse Coordinator.  In the UK the term varied between Clinical Research Nurse, Clinical Trials Nurse, Clinical Trials Coordinator, Clinical Trials Practitioner and Protocol Coordinator.

She then looked at collaborative roles of the clinical research nurse.  She found that the nurses from most countries including Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Europe, India, America, Canada and Europe shared these responsibilities:

  • acting as central contact for study participants and the research team
  • documenting study participant data
  • monitoring safety of participants
  • acting as patient advocate.

Nurses in Italy, however, did not seem to share with nurses in other countries the responsibilities of protocol management, collaboration with research team and conflict resolution. Only nurses in New Zealand, UK and USA represented site at study meetings. Nurses from India were the only group to claim acting as co-investigator as part of their role.

When looking at Informed Consent, most nurses claimed being involved in the informed consent process but nurses from Italy, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea said they were only minimally involved.  These four countries were also less involved with protocol submission, ethics, and advocating safe and ethical protocols. The countries most involved in protocol review and submissions were India, the UK and USA.

Most countries shared common ground when it came to scheduling study visits, assessing patients and reporting adverse experiences. However, in Italy again the research nurses were less likely than their counterparts to ensure participant eligibility, collaborate with recruitment, and ensure informed consent was indeed achieved.

All nurses from all countries seemed to be involved in monitoring participants, accurately documenting care and communicating with participants. But in India, Italy and Japan they were less likely to design data collection tools or manage and negotiate budgets.  And the lucky nurses from India did not get involved in administrative tasks (remind me to ask them how they manage this!).

Overall, the main differences between nations seem to be variations in the scope of the role rather than the importance accorded to and use of competencies.  Some roles seem to be broad, as in India, where the research nurse may act as co-investigator; by contrast nurses in Italy seem to have a more task-oriented role.

All this data was collected from existing articles written about research nurses. I think it is fascinating to see the variety but I also think that the role has evolved from what was reported in these papers. This makes me wonder if we need to be publishing more about who we are, what we do and all we’ve contributed so far.  It also makes me want to congratulate Sandra for her excellent literature review but mostly for getting it published!

 Sandra’s article was published in Nursing Management in December 2013.

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