Preparing for a Research Nurse Interview?
Interviews (including research nurse interviews) can be terrifying, but preparation can go a long way in settling your nerves and helping you to make a good impression and put your best self forward. There are some things you can do prior to the interview and some likely questions you can prepare for in advance.
Before the Interview
Do your research on the organisation and/or the researchers you will be working with. Will the role focus on a specific area of research or will you be required to cover a wide range of diseases? Will you be working for one investigator or many? You can find information about organisations on the their website, their social media profiles or by searching Pub Med for publications of specific researchers who may be on the panel or whose research you will be supporting if chosen for the role. If the advert or job description does not specify a researcher, do ask as this is a great way to distinguish yourself from the pack.
You may want to notify your referees that you are attending the interview so that they are prepared to supply a reference promptly if you are chosen for the role. This helps to speed the HR process which can otherwise delay your new contract.
It is a good idea to go over your CV and be prepared to explain your work history succinctly including any potential problematic aspects such as gaps in employment, short working periods with specific employers and reasons for leaving previous roles. It is likely they will ask you to give a summary of what you have done to date and then ask why you are applying for this particular job.
Read the job description and essential/desirable criteria very closely. Make sure you can demonstrate where you meet criteria and where you may not. If there are areas where you lack expereince do learn all you can about this area to be able to demonstrate at least theoretical knowledge, willingness to learn and initiative. For example, if the role expects you to collect, process and store human tissue and you are unfamiliar with the Human Tissue Act, read about it and learn its basic principles so you can apply this knowledge in your answers to interviewers’ questions.
In my experience, candidates who are invited for interview who make the effort to visit the lab or facility prior to interview have a slight advantage. The employer has the opportunity to get to know the person a little more and the candidate then has a clearer picture of the role and how it fits into the organisation and the current team. If possible, I would ask to visit prior to the interview but this may just be a personal preference.
It is a good idea to anticipate some interview questions, the questions you prepare for may not be exactly what you are asked in the research nurse interview but they will help you review some of the regulations and processes that guide the planning and management of clinical research in healthcare.
GCP It is very likely that if you are applying for a research role, you will be asked about GCP (Good Clinical Practice). Be prepared with a definition or an explanation in your own words about what GCP is, how it came to be and why and how it is used in clinical research.
If this is the first research role you are applying for, do take a GCP course prior to the interview. It will better prepare you for the interview and will demonstrate your determination and zeal for moving into clinical research.
Informed Consent Another question that you may be asked would be around informed consent. Informed consent is covered partly in GCP (which lists the 20 elements to include in the informed consent process) but it is also one of the four competencies for all clinical research nurses. Reading about the competency will give you an idea of what will be expected of you around consent in your role (the competency covers Band 5 to 8).
Confidentiality It is good to review the Data Protection Act and to demonstrate how confidentiality is maintained in research i.e. participant numbers, anonymising documents. You may also want to think aobut how you would maintain confidentiality in more challenging situations i.e. working on various sites or in the community, keeping patient data on web-based databases, USB sticks or sharing data between organisations.
It is also a good idea to know the role of the Caldecott Guardian in ensuring confidentiality of patient information in clinical research.
Safety Reporting Review the terms used for the various categories of adverse events and how each one is dealt with. It is important to know timelines for reporting SAEs (Serious Adverse Events) and SUSARs (Suspected Unexpected Serious Adverse Reactions) and why these timelines exist. This will demonstrate a good understanding of the importance of phamacovigilance in managing clinical trials. If you are not clinically trained, but have worked at a Clinical Trial Practitioner or Coordinator, demonstrate you understand how and when to escalate clinical issues keeping patient safety your number one priority.
Approval process for clinical research/clinical trials Your role may involve setting up studies but even if it does not, it is good to have an understanding of the process of setting up a study or a clinical trial. A good website to show the steps in planning and managing a clinical trial is CT Toolkit.
More general questions You will likely be asked about handling difficult situations whether that be relating to people, processes or working to tight deadlines. Think about what you have done in the past and what strategies you use in difficult situations. Are you a good mediator? Are you good at initiating difficult conversations? Are you resourceful? What skills or talents do you use in difficult situations?
People are often asked about their weaknesses and strengths. It is a good idea to identify these so you can promote your strengths and present strategies that help you minimise your weaknesses. Marcus Buckingham has spent his career researching strengths and weaknesses and we cover this in Developing Yourself in Clinical Research.
You may also be asked about your 5 year plan or even a 10 year plan. Make sure you include how this role will help you achieve your more long-term goals and how this role contributes to the bigger picture. When JFK (John F. Kennedy, former President of The United States) visited the NASA Space Centre in 1962, he asked the janitor what he was doing. The janitor’s response was “Mr President, I am helping to put a man on the moon.” No matter who we are in a health organisation, we are all serving and we are all contributing to a vision or mission greater than ourselves.
My favourite question that a professor I work with often uses is what are you most proud of? This question allows you to see what a person truly thinks is important, it tells you somethign about their character and their beliefs. I always feel it is a great way to end the interviewers questioning.
Be prepared with questions yourself
Bring any questions you have along with you, if you write them down in a notebook, you are less likely to forget them. They may be about professional development, training support for the role, contract lengths and career opportunities within the organisation.
On the day, if you have prepared well, you can relax in knowing you are ready. Make sure you know how to get to the location the interview is taking place and who you should contact on arrival. Give yourself plenty of time to get there; being late for an interview does not make a great impression. Bring a bottle of water, a notepad (with your questions listed) and pen, your certificates and your passport in case they wish to make copies on the day. I like to bring a copy of the JD (Job Description), copies of my CV (Curriculum Vitae) and my invitation to interview. If there are any problems, I have all the details with me and it just makes me feel more prepared.
Wear something professional that makes you feel both comfortable and confident, take deep breathes and give it your best shot!
For an overview of clinical trial management or how GCP applies to your every day job you may wish to attend Clinical Research: Getting Started! and if you are looking to develop and move on to a diffferent role, you may wish to investigate Developing Yourself in Clinical Research.