By Jennifer Larson, contributor
December 16, 2010 - Clinical research nursing may be an emerging specialty, but it’s a specialty that holds a great deal of promise. In the near future, the profession of nursing can expect to see concentrated efforts to continue establishing and defining it as a specialty.
“It’s not new,” said Clare Hastings, Ph.D., RN, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center chief nursing officer.
Hastings explained that nurses have been conducting or participating in clinical research for many years, but their specific standards of practice were not always clearly defined or understood by others. In fact, it was not until very recently that clinical research nursing became its own specialty.
In fact, the professional organization that represents clinical research nurses—the International Association of Clinical Research Nurses—got its start just a couple of years ago. The association, which is small but growing, held its second annual conference in Bethesda, Md., in November 2010 and used the opportunity to focus on the future of the specialty.
During the IACRN conference, Hastings discussed the results of an initiative designed to bolster the specialty. The Clinical Research Nursing (CRN) 2010 initiative was originally conceived in late 2006 to identify the domain of practice, document it and formalize it—and then openly disseminate the information to other nurses. That way, Hastings noted, nurses who are working in the field of clinical research nursing will have guidance that is readily available to them.
And the goals of the CRN 2010 initiative have been reached, for the most part. It has been established that clinical research nursing has a particular domain of practice. A draft report, titled “Building the Foundation for Clinical Research Nursing: Domain of Practice for the Specialty of Clinical Research Nursing,” that was developed by a committee with the NIH has defined the scope of practice as including two nursing roles: the clinical research nurses who have a central focus on caring for research participants and research nurse coordinators who are responsible for study coordination and data management.
The specifics within the specialty domain will continue to develop and evolve, Hastings added. Statements of competency have been drafted and were presented at the conference. Meanwhile, IACRN is working on another challenge: establishing certification for clinical research nurses.
It will definitely benefit the profession to accomplish all of these things, Hastings said. Not only will nurses be recognized for their specialty, but they will be able to share their experiences with others and develop a network of others with similar experience.
“It’s very affirming,” she said.
In the future, there will be some very interesting challenges for nurses who choose to pursue this specialty, noted Christine Grady, Ph.D., acting chief of the NIH Clinical Center Bioethics Department, who also spoke at the IACRN conference. For example, they might get the chance to participate in cutting-edge research that could make a significant difference in people’s lives.
Beyond that, clinical research nurses can play a very important role in spreading the word that research is imperative to creating a better future for health care.
“It’s the way to move forward in terms of improving human health,” she said. “Research is the tool to get there.”
However, as the economy slowed significantly over the past decade, the funding for research trials slowed along with it.
In the future, clinical research nurses will have to be able to be clear about what benefits they offer, said Hastings. Not only will they need to be able to demonstrate their effectiveness to a clinical trial, but that information must be recorded, as well.
“That has got to get documented [better] and get into the literature,” she said.
For more information about clinical research nursing, visit the International Association of Clinical Research Nurses at www.iacrn.org.
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