What to Expect in a Nurse Researcher Job


What to Expect in a Nurse Researcher Job

By Megan Dunn, Contributor

Are you thinking of shifting from patient-facing to research-based? Nurse researcher jobs might be the next best step for your nursing career. The median pay for a nurse researcher salary is $81,500 per year, which is roughly $10K more than the average for RNs. And at the highest levels, RNs in a nurse researcher job description can earn as high as $147,000 annually.

While the salary may be higher, research labs may be slower-paced environments than the ER or ICU. The nurses who succeed in this career niche know what to expect before they step into it. 

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5 Things to Know About Nurse Researcher Jobs

Other than the salary range (which is between $63K and $147K a year, according to Payscale.com reports), here are some facts to know about nurse researcher jobs before you seek a career change to this niche.

1. You might need to go back to school

Nurse research is typically considered an advanced nursing job, and most employers are looking for RNs with valid licenses, clinical experience and an MSN degree. While the right experience and skills can pair with a general MSN to help you land research jobs, if you know you want to get into this field, consider an MSN with a concentration in clinical research. These programs include courses that teach high-level analytical skills, grant writing, project development and management and other nursing skills that are important to the niche.

Once you earn the requisite credentials, you may be able to take advantage of fellowship programs and career development awards from the National Institute of Nursing Research to bolster your resume and get a foot in the field. If you seek a doctorate level of education as a nurse scientist, you may qualify for priority access to the NINR's Loan Repayment Program — the government emphasis put on this position shows just how valuable nurse research is becoming.

2. You may still work with patients

According to the National Institute of Nursing Research, nurse researchers are responsible for helping to prevent diseases and disabilities, managing and eliminating symptoms, enhancing palliative care and working with other professionals to build foundations upon which all clinical care in the nation can rest.

In short, nurse researchers don't just look for cures to diseases. They also work to develop the best practices that can enhance patient care across all types of medical disciplines. Some of these jobs involve clinical trials or working with patients to gather data, so don't assume that your nurse researcher job will cloister you away in the lab. Depending on the job you take, you may still need patient care and people skills.

3. Attention to detail is a non-negotiable skill

Nurse researcher job descriptions typically call for skills that allow you to capture, organize and analyze data quickly and accurately. If you're bad with math, numbers or organization, this may not be the right nursing field for you.

4. So is writing

It's not all equations and columns of data, though. Nurse researchers often need to be adept at the written language. According to Jacksonville University, nurses in the research field often have to contribute to grant writing endeavors to get research continually funded. As a nurse researcher, you may also be asked to publish your findings in medical journals.

5. You'll be contributing to important advances in medical research

As you can see, nurse researcher jobs aren't easier than patient care jobs. They require a different commitment and may require you to develop new skill sets. In the end, though, you know that your hard work is making a big difference in the outcome for future patients.

Nurse research can be a meaningful career for RNs who want to continue to put their medical knowledge to use helping patients. With so many options in clinical research, you can choose from niches that let you spend more time in labs, work with research and development firms or stay connected with patient populations in hospital research and lab departments.

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