Clinical Research Nursing Staff an Important Part of Oncology Clinical Trial Programs

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Oncology nurses are often underutilized at cancer study sites.
Oncology nurses are often underutilized at cancer study sites.
The following article features coverage from the 2018 Oncology Nursing Society's Annual Conference in Washington, DC. Click here to read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor's conference coverage. 

WASHINGTON, DC — Establishing a research nursing core — consisting of registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice nurses (APNs) specializing in oncology — may improve clinical trial operations and outcomes, according to findings presented at the 2018 Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Annual Congress.

Alyssa Macchiaroli, RN, MSN, a Core Leader clinical research nurse said, “Our cancer center was undergoing rapid expansion, adding more early phase trials, more immunotherapy trials, and overall growing the trial portfolio, and everybody realized that we couldn't do this without a good team of nurses.” Research nursing staff are crucial to successfully conducting clinical studies, but clinical research oncology nurses are often overlooked, and therefore underutilized, in cancer study sites.

For this study, an oncology research nursing core was implemented at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University Medical Center. Core responsibilities included providing focused patient care, ensuring adherence to study protocol, assisting in identifying and managing adverse events, and serving as a resource to both clinicians and patients during the study.

In order to maintain continuity of care and effectiveness, nurses assumed 12-hour shifts, established disease specific teams and cross-coverage to maintain flexibility in staffing, had a centralized department, calculated workload and adjusted to need, and also standardized notes and documentation.

Results showed that between 2011 and 2017, clinical trial enrollment increased 47%, from 287 to 421 participants. Phase 1 and 2 trial accruals also tripled between 2013 and 2017. These increases coincided with the expansion of the research nursing core team from 3 members to more than 23 full-time RNs and APNs.

Macchiaroli concluded that “This approach has proven effective and we propose that it be used as a model to enhance clinical trial programs at other institutions.”


Macchiaroli A, Wu R, Brogan F, Bentlyewski E, Crawford G, Forman J. Oncology research thrives with dedicated clinical research nursing staff. Oral presentation at: ONS 43rd Annual Congress; May 17-20, 2018; Washington, DC.

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