On International Day of the Nurse, Clair Harris, Head of Research Workforce, talks about the role of research nurses – a career which has grown significantly in recognition this year, as research nurses have played such a big role in the response to COVID-19. Now is an exciting time to think about a career in research nursing, says Clair.

A former critical care nurse for over 15 years, Clair champions the difference research nurses and nurse researchers can make to patient care and helps to develop research career pathways for nurses.

The first nurse researcher was the formidable Florence Nightingale. Known as the ‘Lady with the lamp’, this pioneer nurse is famous for tending to the wounded of the Crimean War but she did so much more. She spearheaded major health reforms through data collection and evidence-based approaches to nursing.

Nightingale had observed that soldiers were more likely die from disease than war wounds. She advocated for a royal commission to investigate the causes of high mortality. It recommended the creation of a new department to track rates of disease and mortality. She also introduced the first model for systematic collection of hospital data using a uniform classification of diseases and operations. She is considered to be the first research nurse.

Like that time of crisis, our research nurses have been at the forefront of research into COVID-19. Some of the research they’re working on include vaccinations, treatments for patients with COVID-19, as well as researching the long-term effects of the virus. With reports of a third wave across Europe and new studies into ‘long COVID’, research is critical for deepening our understanding of COVID-19 and interventions, and research nurses are vital for the successful delivery of these projects.

Our teams did a fantastic job in responding to COVID-19. Staff from all the research teams and departments came together to deliver a wide portfolio of Urgent Public Health COVID-19 research, while continuing to look after our existing research participants. Now the research teams are leading the way in ensuring patients in all specialities have the opportunity to take part in research as they resume our large portfolio of research projects.

Following a year where research has made such a prominent impact, the nurses’ role in operational delivery is increasingly being recognised as key to clinical research. Now is a great time to think about a career in research. There are many opportunities to join our research teams. There is also a real focus on the importance of nurse-led research and to develop your own research ideas in the Trust, through the Nightingale Academy and our NIHR’s 70@70 Nurse and Midwife Research Lead.

This is a rewarding role. Research nurses have expertise in research process, delivery of research and project management, and have the opportunity to support patients to decide whether they want to include research as part of their care pathway, and then develop meaningful and long-lasting relationships with these patients throughout their journey. They are at the forefront of innovations in care and developing the evidence base, as well as forging professional relationships with colleagues in the Trust and the National networks who share the same vision to integrate research into clinical care.

Find out more about training for nurse and midwife led research.

Find out more about the work of our research nursing teams at:

Celebrating our research nurses and midwives

‘Supporting patients to improve health care for the future’ – celebrating our research nurses

Celebrating nurse researches – the patient perspective

Celebrating research nurses – getting into research

Celebrating research nurses – working within paediatric research

Celebrating research nurses – cardiac research

Celebrating research nurses – intensive care