Opportunities for Nurses in Clinical Research

In the past couple of years, the nursing profession has been riding a rollercoaster. Fueled by a global pandemic and labor shortages, the profession has seen its fair share of trauma in a short timeframe. 

Simply working in a high-stress environment (particularly the emergency department or intensive care unit) where decisions can be life-altering, can in itself be stressful and lead to burnout. But there is more to the narrative.

For burnt-out nurses needing a change, clinical trial management careers are a great fit for their skills while providing a more stable, low-stress day-to-day. Clinical trials across New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have growing opportunities for nurses who want to change gears.

A Recipe for Burnout

We’ve all heard stories of nurses being pushed to their limits while working long hours. Consecutive overtime shifts with little or no breaks lead to physical and mental exhaustion. Being responsible for too many patients at one time increases the burden. Add issues like personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages and unrealistic expectations, creating a recipe for industry-wide burnout. 

The Impact of Burnout

Burnt-out nurse resting head on hands

Burnout at this level is concerning for multiple reasons.

  1. It impacts everyone in the healthcare ecosystem.
  2. It could lead to inconsistent care and potentially inferior care. 
  3. It impacts the quality of care and could severely impact patient outcomes.
  4. It pushes great nurses into other professions.

This is a loss to patients. It’s also a loss for hospitals and clinics that must recruit and hire new resources to fill the vacancies. Hiring and onboarding are expensive and time-consuming efforts. 

Skilled nursing professionals are not easy to find. Many nurses are reevaluating their career choices and re-thinking how and where they want to work.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 3 million registered nurses in the U.S. Though an average of 194,500 openings are expected each year through 2030, the demand for nurses is expected to outpace supply because of people leaving the profession and retiring. 

Reducing Nurse Burnout

There are plenty of recommendations to address burnout. Most require organizational attention and a commitment to supporting overburdened nurses in meaningful ways.

Recognizing the problem is great, but it’s only the first step. 

Improving Communication

Improving communications tops the list of recommendations. Advice urges nurse managers to create transparency. They should promote an open-door policy for nurses to share professional and personal challenges. In doing so, managers can potentially address resource allocation, training, or other factors that may be making the situation worse. 

Employee Support Programs

Employee support programs such as mindfulness, meditation, or yoga can help to address nurse burnout. Taking a moment to breathe and assess a situation can help clarify options. It can also improve decision-making in stressful hospital environments. 

Self-Care Support

Self-care is a critical factor that ultimately is the responsibility of the nurse. However, the organization can support better self-care with educational programs and support services. Plus, organizations can create a supportive culture by:

  • Recognizing a nurse’s efforts
  • Rewarding their professional performance
  • Supporting their efforts to delegate work
  • Setting boundaries

A New Opportunity

Sometimes burnout requires a more significant change. Many nurses consider other professions. For these professionals, clinical research presents an interesting opportunity. They can leverage their existing skillsets and find job satisfaction. Plus, it removes many of the factors that contributed to burnout. 

A Key Opportunity for Nurses in Clinical Trial Management 

Nurses at clinical trial

Clinical research represents a great opportunity for nurses looking for a new challenge. Research organizations (hospitals, clinics, and academic institutions) routinely conduct clinical trials. Trials play an important role in bringing new therapies, medicines, and medical devices to people in need. 

Clinical trials study:

  • New drugs, biologics, or medical devices that are not yet approved by the FDA (or other health authorities)
  • New uses for already approved products
  • New ways to administer products
  • New tests to diagnose illnesses
  • New procedures to address symptoms.

There are numerous clinical trial administration roles with opportunities for patient interaction and care. At the same time, they can reduce the hours/shifts required and the number of patients they are caring for.  For example, the Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC) is a critical role in clinical research and trials.

What Do Clinical Research Coordinators Do?

CRCs assist the principal investigator (PI) and work with the department, sponsor, and institution to ensure trial compliance. They also:

  • Screen subjects
  • Communicate trial requirements to participants
  • Coordinate tests and procedures.

In this way, CRCs interact with all clinical trial stakeholders. They maintain the study timelines and ensure compliance with relevant regulations.

Camaraderie and Purpose

As a member of a clinical trial team, the CRC works with colleagues from various organizations with an array of backgrounds. Being part of a study team often offers a sense of camaraderie.

As teams work toward the common goal of a successful trial, they build relationships that add meaning to their work. This and common goals inject purpose into their tasks.

Patient Interaction on a Stable Schedule

Clinical trial CRCs have the opportunity for ongoing patient interactions throughout the trial. But unlike nursing, they typically have predictable hours with weekends and holidays off.

This is a huge benefit and a big change for nurses who work double shifts and holidays. 

Growth Potential

CRCs perform a wide variety of trial-related tasks. Thus, they have opportunities to work independently and expand their skill sets. This can lead to job satisfaction and growth potential. 

New Opportunities for Nurses in Clinical Research

The Clinical Research Coordinator is one of many roles that nurses can fill throughout the clinical research industry. Some roles support the patient experience while others may be more compliance-focused.

As clinical trials move toward decentralized or hybrid models, it’s important to engage patients through new channels. Trial teams are starting to use new technologies to collect, track and manage the patient experience. So, telehealth trial visits are increasingly common. New technologies, new processes, and innovative science call nurses toward a meaningful career. One where they can learn, grow, and boost their quality of life while contributing to much-needed new medicines. 

If you are a nurse in NY, NJ, or PA interested in learning more about a career in clinical research, contact Vitalief today. We can help you find a meaningful career path that offers growth and flexibility.

The Evolving Role of the Clinical Research Coordinator

Clinical Research Coordinators (CRCs) hold a pivotal position and are critical to the success of a clinical trial. These multi-talented team members are often required to be a “Jack-of-All-Trades.” Florence Healthcare describes the CRC as “the “heart” of a clinical trial – the champion of the protocol, the guardian of the patients, the taskmaster of the research team.” They manage numerous details of the trial, such as eligibility criteria and adverse event (AE) reporting, while also being responsible for broader communications with trial participants, principal investigators (PIs), trial sponsors, and external labs.

One of the critical responsibilities of a CRC is to maintain essential information about the conduct of the trial. The Good Clinical Practices (GCP) requires much of this information, and noncompliance can result in institutional review board (IRB) sanctions or withdrawal of study funding. 

There are many other pressures on CRCs. As noted in the 2019 Survey by the Italian Group of Clinical Research Coordinators (GIDM) and conducted among their membership, the average number of studies followed by the interviewees was 12.4 actively enrolling trials, and 10.6 trials closed for recruitment. At the time of the interview, only a few respondents could rely on a stable contract, permanent- (21.4%) or fixed-term (12.5%), while most (66.1%) worked through diverse temporary contracts (e.g., freelance, or project-based contracts). 

Varying contractual obligations with sponsors create extra pressures often exacerbated by a continuous flow of protocol changes throughout the trial. These typically set off a flurry of distributing, updating, and redistributing documents. It’s essential to manage and track all these activities under strict study timelines for compliance purposes.

A Myriad of Clinical Trial Technologies

The clinical research coordinator can be viewed as the hub of a wheel with spokes that connect them to stakeholders across the clinical research ecosystem. They are often required to learn and use different data capture, collaboration, and analysis tools.

Understanding the technologies and their strengths and weaknesses becomes a vital part of the role. As more clinical trials move toward hybrid and virtual designs, CRCs must keep up with evolving technologies used within various trials. For example, CRCs can now acquire informed consent from trial participants remotely via eConsent. CRCs need to be comfortable using the different enabling technologies to ensure compliance and patient safety.

clinical research coordinator

The Voice of the Clinical Research Coordinator

As clinical trial ecosystems introduce new technologies, CRCs will ensure these new solutions provide adequate support for the trial’s objectives and don’t diminish the team’s abilities to interact with patients or quickly discern issues. Their voice will be important in shaping the future’s use of technology.

For example, telemedicine has offered the ability for healthcare providers to engage and interact with patients remotely. As the “face” of a trial, CRCs often build relationships with patients and other stakeholders that support the study objectives and encourage patients to participate in future trials. Technologies should help in these efforts and not hinder them.

Hybrid and virtual trials, a new and growing focus on patient-centered trials, and increasingly complex trial designs will continue to impact the duties of CRCs. This environment will continue to pose new challenges and new opportunities. In a blog titled, “The Anatomy of a Great Clinical Research Coordinator,” on the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) website, the authors suggest that a dedicated support system including professional development and Principal Investigator (PI) mentoring will enable CRCs to grow professionally and personally. Organizational support for this critical role will continue to be imperative as the dynamics of clinical trials continue to change.

Contact Vitalief for Clinical Trial Solutions and Support

Running a clinical trial requires hard-working staff and problem-proof solutions and support. Whether you need help hiring staff such as a Clinical Research Coordinator, attracting patients, or managing processes, Vitalief offers a solution. Contact us today to learn how our people-first culture can become an asset to your organization.