Should you hire a research nurse?

Are you considering hiring a research nurse? Here are items to consider for a variety of ED scenarios, according to Edward A. Panacek, MD, MPH, FACEP, professor of emergency medicine at University of California — Davis Medical Center in Sacramento:

• If you perform industry-sponsored clinical trials:

It’s virtually impossible to perform industry-sponsored clinical trials without having a full-time clinical nurse to assist with identification and enrollment of patients, and completion of the case report forms, says Panacek. "You need someone who knows their way around the medical record, who can draw labs, and obtain clinical information from the patient," he explains. Industry funds much more biomedical research in academic centers than all federal sources combined, says Panacek. "Industry-sponsored clinical research is a huge research area, and it’s only going to grow," he predicts.

• If your research is funded by other sources:

Even if your research is funded by other sources, Panecek still advises having a research nurse if you’re doing any research in the ED. "If that research is funded from grants or philanthropic foundations, then you have a funding source to carry the salary of that nurse," he says. "It would be difficult to attract those funds or complete that research without a research nurse."

• If your research is not funded by any source:

Is it worth funding a research nurse out of a tight ED budget? "Then the question gets tougher," says Panacek. However, he notes that conducting good clinical research is similar to conducting good quality assurance. "So one way of approaching this is using the research nurse to do patient follow-up and data collection," he says. "If done properly, it essentially becomes quality research because it’s done in an investigative way and structured properly."

Panecek adds that paramedics also should be considered if your budget won’t permit a full-time research nurse. "Many paramedics are interested in getting off the night shifts on ambulances and having a more stable life," he notes. Panecek reports that the next position he funds probably will be a paramedic. "Paramedics can do many of the things that a clinical research nurse does, and their salary is two-thirds, or maybe even half that of a nurse," he says.