Thanks to clinical research, society has access to vaccines that prevent infectious diseases, antibiotics that treat bacterial infections, and medications that manage chronic conditions.
For instance, 80 percent of older adults live with at least one chronic condition, and 68 percent live with at least two, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA). The most common conditions include hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes.
However, through drug trials, alternative methods of treatment, participant interviews, and data analysis, clinical studies can guide researchers to a better understanding of these and many other diseases and conditions. This process can improve detection and diagnosis — and, in some cases, prevent these afflictions altogether.
The trials that verify these lifesaving treatments often include clinical research nurses who observe and manage participants. Students in the Duquesne University Online RN-BSN program can learn the fundamentals of nursing care and practice, and, if they so choose, eventually apply that knowledge in a clinical research setting.
All nurses want to make and keep their patients healthy. However, clinical research nurses, who work on the forefront of medical discoveries, have the added responsibility of managing the well-being of patients in drug trials and other experimental treatments that would hopefully improve the patient’s conditions – but trials come with the risk that the treatment practices won’t work.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the International Association of Clinical Research Nurses (IACRN), these nurses take on a variety of roles, which may include:
As of April 2017, ClinicalTrials.gov shows more than 240,000 registered studies taking place in all fifty states and in 198 countries — more than double the number of registered studies listed on the site in 2010. The majority are clinical trials, known as interventional studies, which means they likely involve clinical research nurses to aid in patient care.
More than 100,000 clinical trials are currently registered in the U.S. alone, for conditions in twenty-five categories.
Past research includes a 2015 study that tested an experimental Ebola vaccine on thousands of humans in Guinea, West Africa, and was proven to be 100 percent effective following the previous year’s outbreak, which claimed 11,000 lives on the continent. Also, a trial conducted in 2016 tested the effect of high-dose Vitamin C in addition to standard treatment in eleven brain cancer patients, who showed an increased quality of life and lifespan after undergoing the three weekly infusions. An upcoming second-phase trial will test the effect of Vitamin C on patients with stage four lung cancer and highly aggressive brain tumors.
In addition, a clinical trial slated for late 2017 will test using red cells manufactured from stem cells in a normal blood donation to create synthetic blood. If successful, the synthetic blood could result in a safe source of blood for rare blood types, as well as for other parts of the world where blood supplies may be inadequate. Another study anticipated in late 2017 would test the effect of ultrasound therapy on Alzheimer’s patients to help restore memory function. The process would aid in clearing out the amyloid plaques that clump around neurons, which are believed to be the cause of memory loss in the disease.
Clinical research nurses play an important role in trials like these and others, which are helping to treat and cure diseases and increase early detection, resulting in humans being able to live longer than ever.
Nursing research develops the knowledge to build the scientific foundation for clinical practice, prevent disease and disability, manage and eliminate symptoms caused by illness, and enhance end-of-life and palliative care, according to the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR).
Clinical research nurses are in high demand and may work for hospitals, research laboratories, private companies, universities, or pharmaceutical companies. Their average salary can range from about $60,000 to $95,000, based on experience.
Students can begin their path to a career as a clinical research nurse by earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing through the online RN-BSN program at Duquesne University. The general nursing curriculum includes courses in information technology, pharmacology, pathophysiology, genetics, and ethics, and allows students to build a foundation for a future career in the high-demand field.