A day in the life of…a Clinical Research Manager

Welcome to the first blog in our ‘day in the life of…’ series which aims to showcase different roles and career pathways within nursing. In our first blog, Ms Chloe Cowan, Clinical Research Manager for the Glasgow Clinical Research Facility in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde gives some insight into her current role and offers some food for thought for nurses wishing to work in the field of clinical research.

(1) What is your job title and your main role/responsibilities?
I am the Clinical Research Manager for Glasgow Clinical Research Facility in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. This involves leading a skilled, diverse research team who support clinical research in the NHS. At any one time we have around 400 clinical studies running across all specialties, and in both adult and children services. We have two purpose-built clinical research facilities and three smaller facilities including a dedicated research facility in the Dental hospital. In addition to managing the team I am responsible for overseeing the delivery of the clinical research portfolio, assessing new projects, budget management, reviewing and ensuring processes and risk assessments for patient safety and quality management. I am also responsible for our education team who develop and run a programme of competencies, courses, training and skills programmes.

(2) How did you get into your current role/line of work?
I really got involved in clinical research as a chemotherapy nurse specialist: I became part of the study team for lung cancer clinical trials and at the same time studied for a MSc in Cancer Care which involved designing and conducting my own research project. From there I had the opportunity to work as a Research Practitioner in the Cancer Centre supporting nurse-initiated research and working with the practice development and education team, developing cancer nurse’s research interests, involvement and skills. I enjoyed working in a research active environment and when a post came up for Cancer Research UK Senior Nurse, combined with managing the Cancer Research Network I grabbed the chance with both hands. This gave me experience in managing a clinical research nurse team and a research budget. I had a specific remit to make research relevant not just with multiple service partners but with patients and engaging the public in our clinical trials.

(3) Can you tell us what a typical day in your nursing role involves?
Day-to-day this includes assessing the team’s workload, skill-mix, the clinical space, supplies and equipment needed. I work closely with the other Research and Innovation (R&I) senior managers as most projects involve many different services and require close collaboration with for instance imaging, labs, pharmacy, eHealth. We formed a new research taskforce to manage and review our response to the COVID 19 pandemic and played an essential role in the development of new treatments and vaccinations, providing vital information for public health and clinical services.

(4) What would you say are the ‘best’ or most rewarding parts of your role?
It is a real privilege working at the forefront of healthcare science. Speaking with our study participants – whether it is patients who have benefited from life-changing treatments, or those who are willing to contribute their precious time so we can better understand life-limiting conditions, in the knowledge their health may not improve – is incredibly humbling.

(5) What advice would you give to others who would like to work in a similar nursing role?
Clinical research offers nurses a chance to take their career in many directions, whether it is within a disease specialty, or with advanced clinical skills, or developing and leading others with education and management. It is a fast-moving, exciting field and one which COVID-19 urgent public health research catapulted into the spotlight demonstrating it to be an essential part of a responsive NHS.


Chloë Cowan (@clo_cowan) graduated as a Registered Nurse from the University of Glasgow (@UofGNurse) (Bachelor of Nursing 1998, Master of Science 2004). She is Manager of Glasgow Clinical Research Facility (@GlasgowCRF), part of the UKCRF Network (@NIHR_UKCRFN) and NHS Research Scotland (@NHSResearchScot). Since writing this blog Chloë has been appointed Senior Research & Innovation Manager for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (@NHSGGC).

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