Registered Nurses Are Qualified For Pharmaceutical Research And Development Jobs
It is uncommon to find registered nurses (RN) in roles within research and development (R&D). This is unfortunate for nurses looking for jobs in the pharmaceutical industry as well as the companies seeking qualified staff to ensure a patient-centric approach. Medical affairs and drug safety (pharmacovigilance) are areas where experienced registered nurses can begin their transition to the pharmaceutical industry and eventually into R&D. These include entry-level jobs responding to inquiries or receiving reports of adverse events. Nurses can also work as medical science liaisons (MSLs). However, R&D offers many more opportunities to consider such as medical writing, clinical research associates, just to name a few.
Also Read: Pharmaceutical Industry Jobs For Nurses
I had the unique opportunity to conduct an ad-hoc advisory board with a variety of R&D experts on the topic of registered nurses in R&D. The panel consisted of six colleagues from different departments. None of them had much experience working with RNs. I delivered a brief presentation, requesting that they challenge any preconceived notions of nursing practice. I exposed them to the different types of nursing education and shared some of the Institute of Medicine’s 2020 goals for RNs.
What I learned was surprising. Initially, there was discussion clarifying nursing credentials and education. The fact that nurses can earn a Ph.D. in Nursing was not well known and other doctorates in nursing (DNP, DNSc) were even less recognized. This small fact sharing generated a consensus that RNs suffer from a perception problem. One attendee commented that a generational bias might be at the root of the misunderstanding about modern nurse capabilities. There may be some truth to this view because the autonomy of nurse practitioners and use of clinical nurse specialists to deliver more advanced care is still a relatively new concept.
Cost effectiveness was also discussed. A PharmD, Ph.D., or MD will likely cost more, however, their skills are well known and accepted. This is another area where RNs have poorly positioned themselves. RNs are sometimes seen as the “cheap” alternative, lower quality but sufficiently capable and skilled enough to perform entry-level work.
There were clear recommendations to help nurses secure roles in pharmaceutical R&D. Nurses in the industry should spend time networking and also speaking with recruiting agencies. They should educate recruiters about nursing credentials and background. Recruiters are uniquely positioned to enlighten their industry clients to find the right person for the right job. Nurses should network and build relationships with medical doctors that are leading research initiatives. This will give them exposure to the company clinical research associates and help increase their chances of being properly positioned to accept a role when it becomes available.
In my experience, successful nurses in R&D typically have a clinical specialty. For example, a GI Clinical Nurse Specialist can compete with a PharmD or Ph.D. in a clinical research role for GI treatments. A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist would make an excellent Medical Affairs contributor to a company that develops surgical gasses or devices. These are RNs with Masters level specialties in roles that would typically be held by pharmacists or researchers with doctoral degrees. The advanced practice RN can differentiate themselves by highlighting their specialty and unique nursing patient care perspective. These are the two key aspects of getting a big break in pharmaceutical R&D.