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Would you like to hire a full-time nurse who can ensure that quality research projects are conducted in your ED — with no additional expense to your already-overstretched budget? If so, consider hiring a research nurse.
"Some of these nurses are very good at scaring up funds, whether through philanthropic foundations or educational funds within an institution," says Edward A. Panacek, MD, MPH, FACEP, professor of emergency medicine at University of California — Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. "You may be surprised at how much salary support they can generate on their own by being creative and [applying] for grants."
Many hospitals fund ED research nurse positions entirely with money from pharmaceutical companies, says Debbie Travers, RN, MSN, former research assistant professor for the department of emergency medicine at the University of North Carolina and current ED triage nurse at the University of North Carolina Hospital, both based in Chapel Hill. "The pharmaceutical companies like it because they can work with dedicated research staff on compliance checks and training," she says. "The hospitals like it because they get the funding from the drug company to do it right."
Panecek estimates that about 50% of the research money brought in goes directly to support the salary of the ED research nurse. "That usually is sufficient, if you have multiple trials going on and they are overlapping, to fund that research nurse position full-time," he says. The rest of the funds are used for salary support, institutional overhead, and supporting other research activities, he says. "It’s not at all uncommon these days to have people doing clinical trials research purely as a source of additional income and not necessarily for the academic reason of publication," reports Panacek, who has employed clinical research nurses for 14 years. (See "Should you hire a research nurse?" in this issue.)
Here are some of the benefits of having a full-time research nurse in the ED:
• Residents are assisted with research projects.
At University of Louisville (KY) Hospital, ED residents are required to complete a research project. "I assist each resident with the protocol, methods, and data collection," says Ashlee McCulloch, RN, CCRC, research nurse for the department of emergency medicine. "These projects are not usually money makers, but are a necessity for the department." Without the assistance, the residents would have difficulty fulfilling the requirement, says McCulloch, who is a certified clinical research coordinator. "In the past, prior to nurse involvement, the projects were just case reviews and chart reviews," she says. "Very little real’ research was being done."
• Funds are obtained for clinical trials.
The nurse acts as a liaison between the company and the hospital, McCulloch explains. "There is money to be made, but time commitment from the nurse and principal investigator is a must," she says. If you have a pharmaceutical research clinical trial going on, it is very time-consuming, says McCulloch. "It usually involves 24-hour availability. The research nurse is the secretary, the receptionist, the nurse, the patient advocate, the principal investigator’s right hand, and the study coordinator," she explains. Still, the position can definitely pay for itself, says McCulloch. At University of Louisville, clinical research trials are an important source of ED revenue, she reports.
• Other tasks are done by the research nurse.
McCulloch does many tasks other than research. "I do protocols, continuous quality improvement, payroll, research committee, patient follow-up, and much more," she says. (To see Job Description for Clinical Research Assistant, click here. Also, see "Job description for ED research nurse" in this issue.)
• ED staff are free to care for patients.
Dedicated research staff have time to explain the study to the patient and answer questions about consent for participation, says Travers. "This leaves the front-line clinicians to do patient care and be the patient advocates," she explains. It’s difficult to complete any research without dedicated staff, says Travers. "Data collection by nurses and physicians who are working shifts is hard," she says. "They are busy with their first priority, which is patient care."
It’s also better to have the same staff person collect all the data, rather than all the ED staff collecting it, according to Travers. "There is better inter-rater reliability," she says, "and who better than a master’s prepared nurse with research training and experience?"
For more information about the benefits of a research nurse, contact:
• Ashlee McCulloch, RN, CCRC, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Louisville Hospital, 530 S. Jackson St., Louisville, KY 40202. Telephone: (502) 852-7874. Fax: (502) 852-0066. E-mail: email@example.com.
• Edward A. Panacek, MD, MPH, FACEP, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California — Davis Medical Center, 2315 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95817. Telephone: (916) 734-8569. Fax: (916) 734-7950.
• Debbie Travers, RN, MSN, Campus Box 3360, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3360. Telephone: (919) 966-4721. Fax: (919) 966-3049. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.