In early February more than 100 delegates filled the reception rooms at Headington Hill Hall to hear Professor Mary Boulton talk about her recent research into the experiences of research nurses employed by the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (OxBRC). The research was funded by Thames Valley HIEC and the OxBRC and largely took part in April and May 2011 with a small follow-up study in September of 2011.
In part as a consequence of this diversity, the work they do is ill-defined, poorly understood and often taken for granted by those with whom they work (from senior researchers to ward nurses). In particular, the ways research nurses contributed to the success of research through their individual knowledge, skills and experience is often not adequately recognised and research nurses are not always accorded appropriate respect as researchers.
The diversity of their work and employment situations (and the many different locations in which they work) also contributes to their lack of visibility to and isolation from other research nurses, and prevents them from coming together as a supportive professional body with their own professional identify.
Both the isolation of research nurses and the lack of recognition of their contribution to research (over and above their prescribed duties) contribute to their liminal position within and between the clinical and academic worlds.
This is a source of tensions in itself (as expressed in their concern that they are becoming deskilled as nurses) but also leads to both potentially inappropriate and unhelpful management structures and a truncated and uncertain career structure.