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Keep Making a Difference: Nurses and Midwives


23 October 2019




Keep Making a Difference

We want to attract nurses and midwives who are nearing retirement, returning from a career break, or seeking a career change to consider clinical research as an opportunity to ‘keep making a difference' in the field of nursing and midwifery.

We want nurses and midwives to learn more about how rewarding a career as a research nurse can be and to find out if research is the next career move for them. Are you a Nurse or Midwife:

  • looking for a change in direction?
  • returning from a career break? 
  • retiring soon but keen to continue working?

Research nursing: a rapidly expanding branch of nursing

Research nurses are involved in the process of finding new treatments and improving patient care. The research nurse and midwife role is patient facing and the nurse-patient relationship is a central component of the role.

A research nurse or midwife will have time to get to know their patients well. They support the patient through their research journey, monitor them throughout their illness, talk things through with the patient and liaise with the clinical teams and specialist nurses to ensure the patient and their family are well informed about treatment options.

Clinical research nursing is a new and rapidly expanding branch of nursing. All the skills learned on the ward environment are transferable to a research role.

Research teams in demand

More patients than ever before accessing research trials. Research teams are in demand across the country and we need more research nurses and midwives to support these teams and give great clinical care.

All employers know the importance of improving the retention of staff and making improvements at a local level to reduce the number of nurses leaving the profession. Staff retention is a high priority for every NHS organisation. The NIHR is a significant funder of staff to support clinical research across the NHS and it is important that we play an active role in supporting these efforts.


Career Changers

Are you a Nurse or Midwife looking for a change in direction?

As a new and rapidly expanding branch of nursing we are keen to make sure nurses who may not know or have never considered clinical research nursing come and take a look. It’s not unusual for nurses to move on from their current role, consider a new career or seek new development opportunities as they advance in their profession or circumstances in their life change.

Our career change ambassadors, Nurse Rosie, Nurse Pooja and Midwife Anna considered leaving the profession completely until discovered new roles in research.

Rosie Reece Anthony's story

Rosie is a research nurse at University Hospital Lewisham Intensive Care Unit. 

I love what I do. This is an ideal role for a person who has a family. 

Rosie's early career

“At the age of 14, I used to help care for my grandmother,” remembers Rosie. “And I felt like it’s something that I wanted to carry on doing.” After completing her training as a nurse, she worked in an Intensive Care Unit for ten years. However, eventually the working conditions became a problem. “I had my son in 2010, which had to change my plans on how I worked,” explains Rosie. “I mainly started to do nights. My health started to deteriorate.” She decided it was time for a positive career change.

Becoming a research nurse

Rosie asked her colleagues and supervisors for recommendations. Someone suggested research nursing, and although Rosie didn’t know much about it, she decided to try a new role for six months.“I made the job mine, and I fell in love with it,” she says. Since that first trial, Rosie has worked on clinical trials for new sepsis treatments and been responsible for training other staff. She’s especially proud of meeting recruitment and time targets. “I wanted to go above and beyond in my role,” she explains. “Now everybody is orientated on research in my unit.”

Life as a research nurse

“I’ve always been passionate about nursing,” says Rosie. “I still do hands-on nursing.” But her new career is a better fit for her family, with flexible hours and no difficult weekend shifts. Although she was nervous at first, Rosie settled into her new role fast. “One of my biggest fears was, how do I work with consultants?” But she soon built strong working relationships: “Within a week or two, the fear had gone.” Her best advice for other research nurses is to invest plenty of time in staff team-building and training. “This is an ideal role for a person who has a family. I love what I do.” 

Anna Bosanquet's story

Anna is a senior research midwife at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. 

It was exactly the job I needed. It's very rewarding.

Anna's early career

“I dreamt about becoming a midwife all my life,” says Anna. “It’s actually the experience of giving birth that made me think I want to be a midwife.” Unfortunately, Anna found it difficult to juggle childcare with her studies, and switched to psychology instead. She worked as a teacher and researcher in psychology and medical sociology. But she still knew that something was missing. “After a long time,” explains Anna, “I started training as a midwife again.” She was keen to start clinical practice, and even became a specialist perineal midwife and senior lecturer.

Becoming a research nurse

“Like many midwives,” says Anna, “the contrast between what we are taught at universities, what perfect midwifery should be like, and the reality,” was difficult to deal with. Anna switched to part-time work, and eventually began to look for a career change. “I thought I would change the world, but I accepted that I can’t change the world. Never again,” remembers Anna. She was burnt out, and wanted to find a role that would make her feel fulfilled again. She started searching for a job which would be “more controlled and fun and less emotionally challenging”. Anna’s first project as a research nurse was a study for children with eczema. “Once I started,” she says, “it was exactly the job I needed.” She enjoys working with a multidisciplinary team, managing her own time, and being able to offer her patients excellent continuity of care.

Life as a research nurse

“I like the independence,” says Anna, “and being still connected to midwifery”. It’s exciting to work with other specialists and learn about innovations in patient care. Anna’s latest research is linked to pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). What’s it like to work on such a range of innovative projects? “It’s very rewarding,” says Anna. “One of the wonderful things about midwifery is that you can change your role a lot throughout your career.” And her advice for other midwives who are thinking about research nursing? “Go for it! We are always looking for good staff.”

Pooja Datt's story

Pooja is a senior research nurse at London North West Hospitals NHS Trust. 

I never realised a career in research existed.

Pooja's early career

Its always been collection of data, making a change to the clinical care, has always my area of interest but I never realised a career in research existed." Pooja spent her early career working as a staff nurse in cardiac intensive care. During her 12 years in intensive care Pooja’s interest lied in improving patient care and became involved in audit and data collection. It was whilst doing data collection projects that Pooja learnt about research and through word of mouth heard about research nurse vacancies.

Becoming a research nurse

"I had a colleague who was working as a part time research nurse and I realised there was actually a career path." Pooja started her research journey when she moved to Oxford, securing a Research Nurse role. She really enjoys the combination of clinical and research working. Upon moving to London Pooja joined the then Cancer Research Network in North West London and has progressed her career from a Research Nurse to Research Team Leader, where she manages a small team. She enjoys the ability to use her clinical, academic and leadership skills in her role. Eighteen years on Pooja feels content in her role and is able to make a difference to patient care, something that was always at the heart of her nursing career from the beginning.

Life as a research nurse

For Pooja being a research nurse is about using clinical knowledge and academic knowledge to be able to keep making a difference."Working as a research nurse and evolving to a team lead has been a long journey but a really successful and great journey for me"

Returning to Work

Are you a Nurse or Midwife returning from a career break?

The nursing profession is focused around the care of patients and families and requires a high level of interpersonal and analytical skills coupled with a wealth of experience developed over many years. Each professionals training and experience represents a significant investment in time and effort. Yet, there may be a time in your life when you want to take a break from what you do, whether that’s to take a year out to travel or several years to support the start of a family.

So what happens at times of transition, when life, circumstances or ambition makes an individual look for something different? If the thought of your 'return to nursing' course makes you feel like you need something a bit different then a research role could be the answer.

Amy Barker's story

Amy Barker is a research nurse and one of our ambassadors for a fulfilling career change. She works in research with the Maternity Unit at West Middlesex Hospital.

Being a research nurse fits very well with my lifestyle as a mum.

Amy's early career

Amy trained as a nurse in Brighton, in 1997. She started her career in an intensive care unit. However, she soon wanted a change, and she spent some time travelling and working in Australia. Amy didn’t hear about research nursing until she returned to the UK. “I started to work at Kings College London, with lecturers, senior professors, people like that,” says Amy. “I thought research nursing could combine both the skills that I had in nursing, along with the administrative skills that I had picked up.”

Becoming a research nurse

Changing the focus of your career might seem intimidating, but Amy enjoyed the change. “It wasn’t daunting at all,” she says, “it was fascinating, particularly in reproductive health, childbirth and women’s health”. It took time to get to grips with academic language, but Amy enjoyed knowing that her work was contributing to medical advances. “The whole idea behind trying to make things better was very close to my heart,” she explains. And her advice for other research nurses? “It’s a slow process, but through being part of the team, listening to people talking about the research they were doing, meetings with colleagues,” Amy soon felt at home in a research environment. She now attends conferences and courses in research topics such as clinical trials.

Life as a research nurse

“Being a research nurse fits very well with my lifestyle as a mum”, says Amy. “The flexibility that it offers, being able to work within office hours, is really good.” And she feels that she’s making a direct contribution to patient care: “you are still making an impact”. “The one great thing about being a research nurse,” concludes Amy, “is seeing the improvements in women’s health happening in real time”. She’s right at the cutting edge of medical development, and she loves her job.


Retiring and Continuing to Work

Are you a Nurse or Midwife retiring soon but keen to continue working?

Experienced nurses hold a wealth of knowledge and expertise that is so valuable to the profession. Yet many choose to retire from early. For some this is a due to health concerns, a change in family circumstances, such as a partner retiring or needing to care for elderly relatives, or it is simple wanting to try something different or work more flexibly.

Are you keen to continue working to 65 and beyond? Maybe you enjoy the patient contact and find the interpersonal relationships rewarding or you value the opportunity to keep learning and developing yourself. Our ambassadors Nurse Ursula and Nurse Elizabeth both returned to a flexible research role following retirement. Hear how their clinical experience and knowledge is valued and how they keep making a difference to patient care.

Ursula Kirwan's story

Ursula is a senior research nurse at West Middlesex Hospital and one of our ambassadors for retiring and returning to work. She returned to research following initial retirement.

It’s a great job for experienced people.

Ursula's early career

Ursula trained as a nurse in 1978 working in both paediatric and neonatal intensive care units. It was whilst doing a degree at university that Ursula was first introduced to research, learning about research methods, statistics and how to read research papers. Ursula learnt more about how clinical trials were run and soon decided that this was the direction she wanted to take following her degree.

Becoming a research nurse

Ursula started her research journey working in dementia some 15 years ago. She recalls finding it daunting at first, especially learning all the regulatory aspects of working on clinical trials, but says “it was the working on her own and working with a wide variety of people” that she really enjoyed. Some years on and having worked in a variety of clinical research settings, such as dementia, diabetes and cancer, she says “seeing treatments being developed, licensed and making a difference to people’s lives is really great."

Retirement and returning to research

Ursula decided after many years of nursing it was time to retire, but “it became boring” she says and decided to return. Some four years on Ursula now works part time as a research nurse. she says “I enjoy it and would recommend it to anyone”. “It’s a great job for experienced people”, she says, “for those who like meeting people, talking through trials with people and at the same time working towards something that will change practice and improve patient outcomes”. Ursula enjoys her part time working and would recommend it to anyone.

Elizabeth's story

Elizabeth (not her real name) is 82 and an experienced research nurse working at Maidstone Hospital. 

My research role gives me tremendous satisfaction.

Elizabeth's early career

Elizabeth trained as a general nurse in 1976 and then went on to do her midwifery training. Desperate to start working in the community Elizabeth was told she needed to work another year in a hospital setting before she could work in the community as a midwife so she decided to take an opportunity to do a health visitor qualification which enabled her to work in the community for what she describes as “15 enjoyable years”.

Retirement and returning to research nursing

Elizabeth says “I was approaching 55 and needed to decide what to do next”, realising she didn’t wish to stay in the community she took early retirement. She recalls deciding what to do next and visited her local community hospital and asked how they could use her skills in ophthalmology. She was offered a post and given the opportunity to do the ophthalmic degree and for 12 years worked her way through a staff nurse, a sister and a senior sister role. Elizabeth found being a senior sister took her away from people and being with people is what she enjoyed.

After a few years clinical work “became rather mundane” says Elizabeth and she wanted to explore what opportunities were available for people with certain ophthalmology conditions and thought research may be that way forward. Elizabeth says “I wanted a greater depth of knowledge and something more for the future care of the patients she saw in clinic”. It was then that Elizabeth started in research and she chose to do this as a staff bank nurse in addition to her clinical role. Still enjoying both clinical and research roles, Elizabeth now does both roles through the trust staff bank and says “it gives me time for my home life”. “I enjoy working after retirement”, says Elizabeth, “I enjoy people, I am a people person and my knowledge of ophthalmology is what I can bring to research”.

Being a research nurse

I needed to do my Good Clinical Practice Certificate and was supported to do this. “Research documentation was challenging”, says Elizabeth “and this does fall into place when you are working on a research study”. Working in a speciality I know, ophthalmology, says Elizabeth “gives me tremendous satisfaction, it gives me the opportunity to meet people”. As a research nurse, I have satisfaction that I am the cutting edge of all future care. “The greatest thing about my role is that I am using my knowledge in an area I love, ophthalmology", says Elizabeth. “I am a people person and people with problems with their eyes are ordinary people who have problems with their vision and being able to help them at this time is so, so important to me”.


The Role of a Research Nurse and Midwife


It's about the patient 

Clinical Research is essential for improving patient care and finding new treatments.

The research nurse and midwife are at the heart of this process: acting as the patient advocate, maintaining patient safety, and ensuring the patient is supported throughout the research study.

The role is varied, interesting, dynamic and often challenging and requires a wide range of clinical skills and experience. The research nurse or midwife coordinates the day to day management of the research portfolio, requiring a flexible, adaptable approach with good communication and organisational skills.

Every day is different

Many research nurses and midwives work within teams, however on occasions you may work on your own requiring the ability to prioritise and make decisions. The research nurse and midwife role are patient facing roles, and a key responsibility is ensuring the patient gives fully informed consent before entering a clinical study. Informed consent involves: screening for potential patients, for example through medical notes, or multidisciplinary team meetings; providing patients with all the information they need so that they understand the purpose of the study, any potential risks and benefits and what will happen if they agree to participate.

For this, the ability to give clear explanations and demonstrate excellent communication and interpersonal skills are essential aspects of the role. Once a patient is enrolled into a study the research nurse or midwife will be responsible for supporting the patient with study requirements and for collecting and recording data, whilst continuing to follow the patient through their research journey.

Safety is a priority

Accurate and complete data collection is paramount to the research nurse and midwife roles, to ensure the results of the study are valid. Thus, having a meticulous approach and paying attention to detail are key. Data collection is equally important for safety reporting of untoward reactions patients may experience.

Sometimes reactions can be expected - meaning they have already been reported by other study participants, but sometimes they can be new or not yet seen. Strong communication and detailed notes history becomes a significant skill for fast, clear reporting, ensuring patient safety. Acting as the patient advocate you will be responsible for the safety and wellbeing of the patient, but also as a research advocate you will act as mentor, and advisor to other health professionals being involved in cutting edge, novel and often world leading research.


FAQs on Research Roles


Why should a nurse/midwife move into a Research Role?

If you are inquisitive, a life-long learner and have the drive to improve patient care then a research role may be for you. Research is happening in most clinical areas so you can choose to work in a clinical area that suits your experience and interests, for example diabetes, cardiology, oncology, or you may choose to take on a new challenge and develop skills in another clinical area. If you are unsure whether this is a role for you, seek out the research teams in your clinical area and arrange to shadow the team or contact

Can any nurse apply for a role as a research nurse/midwife?

Generally research managers will be looking for a registered nurse or midwife educated to degree level with evidence of at least two years clinical experience and further professional development. All the skills learnt on the ward environment are transferable to a research role. A key component of the role is the ability to build a rapport with your patients quickly. You will require excellent communication and organisational skills and have the ability to pay attention to detail. You will learn and transfer complex clinical and scientific concepts into lay terms and transfer this to what participation in a clinical study means for the patient; something which comes with experience in the role. You will work with the trust multidisciplinary team of nursing, medical and support services requiring the skills to embed into the clinical situation and work alongside patient’s clinical care.

What is the average starting salary for a Research Nurse/Midwife?

Generally a nurse new to research would start on an Agenda for Change pay band 5 and you may find some organisations offer band 6 opportunities.
Many research staffs are employed on a fixed term contract due to the way the funding flows into research. However staff on fixed term contracts would not be treated less favourably that permanent employees and staff on a fixed term contract have the same rights as a permanent employee if they have been employed continuously for 2 or more years. So if you are moving into research from another NHS role and do not have a break in service your employment rights will be treated the same as a permanent employee.You may also find some organisations offer roles on a substantive contract. If you have concerns about a fixed term contract contact for more information.

What does a research nurse or midwife do?

A research nurse/midwife is a clinical staff nurse/midwife whose primary role is to care for patients who are participating in a clinical study.
As a Research Nurse/midwife you will work autonomously managing your own caseload so having the ability to prioritise and make decisions is important. Communication across the team is equally important requiring a flexible and adaptable approach to your day. Being the patient’s advocacy and ensuring the safety of the patient is one of the most important responsibilities. Everyday as a Research Nurse or midwife is different and you get the opportunity to use a variety of skills as the role involves clinical, managerial and educational aspects. Ensuring that patients give informed consent before being entered into a clinical study is fundamental to the role. This will involve screening for potential patients, ensuring the patient has all the relevant information they need and that they understand the purpose of the study, any potential risks and benefits and what will happen if they agree to participate. Once a patient is recruited into the study the research nurse/midwife will be responsible for supporting the patient through their research journey and for collecting and recording data. Research data is vitally important for the study to be valid so the research nurse/midwife role in ensuring data is complete and accurate is paramount.

What is the nurse-patient relationship?

The research nurse/midwife role is patient facing and the nurse-patient relationship is a central component of the role. As a research nurse/midwife you have time to get to know your patients well as you will often follow them throughout their illness. You have an opportunity to talk things through with the patients and work closely with the medical teams and specialist nurses to ensure the patient and their family are well informed about treatment options.

What additional training will I need?

As a research nurse/midwife you will be required to take a course in Good Clinical Practice and Informed Consent to enable you to discuss clinical trials with patients. In addition there are a number of learning opportunities available to help develop your skills in your role in research. The NIHR provides a number of courses such as Next Steps in Clinical Research, Let’s Talk Trials along with a number of research governance courses.
As a research nurse/midwife you never stop learning whether it is through formal courses or informally through your everyday role.

Where will I see Research posts advertised?

Generally research nurses work in hospitals and other heath care settings and these posts are advertised on the trust website or on NHS jobs. It is important to read the job specification and contact the recruiting manager if there are components that you are unsure about. If you are considering a role in research, seek out the research teams in your area and discuss the role and arrange to shadow the team so you can decide if this is a career for you.

Can I work as a self employed research nurse/midwife?

The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) is funded through the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research and is the research delivery arm of the NHS. As such the majority of Research Nurse and midwifery roles are funded through health organisations. A number of research nurses/midwives are employed through a nursing agency or nurse bank and generally managers would need to ensure you hold a current Good Clinical Practice (GCP) certificate and have the skills to perform the role. An increasing number of nurses/midwives are now working as self-employed professionals and you may find the RCN Self Employment guidelines useful.

How do I get a Research Nurse/midwife Bank Shift?

Most NHS trusts have a nurse staff bank service to fill temporary gaps within the trust which allows existing staff the opportunity to work additional shifts or enables external staff to work through that trust bank. Each trust nurse bank will have its own application and recruitment process. The skills required for different clinical areas will be dependent on the role. To work within clinical research there will generally be a requirement to have some existing research experience and hold a valid Good Clinical Practice and Informed Consent certificate; however this will be dependent on the individual requirements. You may find some trusts advertise Research Nurse/midwife Bank Staff posts to deliver a specific study for a specific duration of time where training will be offered.

Do I need to read a lot of research papers to be a research nurse/midwife?

Clinical research is important for improving clinical care for patients. There are many advances in clinical care and as a research nurse/midwife you will be required to keep up to date with advances in care in your clinical area, so having an inquisitive mind, and possessing good analytical and interpersonal skills are essential components of the role.

What sort of pay rises can I expect in a research role?

The majority of research nurse/midwife nurse roles are paid according to the NHS Agenda for change (AFC) pay system. Generally a nurse/midwife new to research will start on a Band 5 pay scale with opportunity to progress through the AFC banding scales.

Will I have access to childcare vouchers in a research role?

The Childcare Voucher scheme offers working parents the opportunity to swap part of their pre-tax salary to pay for registered childcare (including breakfast and afterschool clubs, childminders, day nurseries and some holiday schemes). As a result, they make savings on their Tax and National Insurance. You will need to establish if your employee offers such a scheme and be aware the scheme is due to close to new entrants on 4 October 2018.

Can I work flexibly in a research role?

Generally the role is Monday-Friday 37.5 hours per week; however a degree of flexibility is required depending on the requirements of the study. For example you may need to work into the evening if an outpatient clinic runs late or attend an early morning multidisciplinary team meeting. Some studies may require you to work out of normal hours and each team will have their own policy for this.

Can I work part time in a research role?

Many nurses/midwives work in part time roles and the post advertisement will state the number of hours per week. Some teams can be flexible depending on the requirements of their study protocols so it is always worth contacting the recruiting manager and discussing the hours even if the post is advertised as a full time post.

What sort of support, training and education will I get in a research role?

To work on clinical trials each employee will be required to have a valid certificate in Good Clinical Practice (GCP). Courses can be a one day face to face or online training. Each clinical research team will have its own induction programme for new staff and the support and training is generally tailored to the needs of the employee. The NIHR provides a number of training courses. In addition each employing organisation will have a number of mandatory training programmes that employees will be required to complete.

Will I have to work on my own?

Generally research has a mix of autonomy and team work. You may manage your own caseload of studies but have access to a wider research team.

Will I learn new terminology?

Definitely, the terminology that researchers use is generally unfamiliar to others, however many research teams provide new staff with a glossary of terms and you quickly learn the acronyms and research terms through your day to day role.

Is a research role all about form filling and box ticking?

Patient safety and well being is central to any research study and as such collecting and recording of clinical data is required. The data collection is important for the validity of the study and supports the final study outcome.

What is the difference between a clinical trial and a clinical study?

The terms clinical trial and study are often used interchangeably. A clinical study involves research using human volunteers (also known as participants) that intends to add to medical knowledge. A clinical trial is often used to describe a study with a specific intervention and you may hear this type of study being referred to as an interventional study.

Is a Clinical Research Nurse/Midwife role the same as a Nurse Researcher?

The terms clinical research nurse and nurse researcher are often confused and used interchangeably but each role and its responsibilities vary enormously. A Clinical research nurse/midwife role supports clinical studies that are related to treatments and patient care whereas a nurse researcher is more of an academic career path that allows nurses/midwives to lead research projects as part of further education such as a Masters degree or PhD.