Clinical trials are led by a principal investigator (PI) with a research team that may include physicians, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare professionals. PIs can represent a variety of disciplines, and nurse scientists often hold that role.

Joan E. Haase, PhD, RN, FAAN
ONS member Joan E. Haase, PhD, RN, FAAN, is codirector of the Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis Research in Palliative and End-of-Life Communication and Training Signature Center and Holmquist professor of pediatric oncology nursing at Ind

My early experience as a PI came when I developed the Resilience in Illness Model (RIM) through a series of studies, beginning with a phenomenologic study of courage in adolescents and young adults (AYAs). RIM has been used to evaluate several interventions, including music therapy and parents’ experiences caring for a child with cancer. It is also used in four Asian countries through the Asian Resilience for AYAs With Cancer, which I founded to continue my work with former students from Asia who came to the United States to work with me.

I am one of three PIs for a clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute studying palliative care interventions to help parents of children with high-risk cancers understand how goals of care change over the continuum. This trial is known as the Informational Meetings for Planning and Coordinating Treatment Intervention and is based on a pilot study on the effects of a communication plan on end-of-life outcomes in children with cancer.

From my experiences, I’ve determined critical keys for success and collaboration, many of which are inherent in nurses in all aspects of practice.

Build an Interprofessional Team That Works Well Together

Nurses build great relationships, which affects the clinical trial. An engaged team conducts the study with a clear process and quality assurance, and it respects, supports, communicates with, and celebrates each other. Ensure that several people are involved when building your team, including faculty and other staff; comprehensive training is provided; and trust and appreciation are expressed regularly.

Hire a Qualified Project Manager

The project manager ensures that regulatory tasks are completed on time and all study reports are clear and accurate. They lead meetings for PIs and project managers, help develop the article to present the study results, and ensure that all aspects of the study, including recruitment, institutional review boards, enrollment, intervention, and delivery, are progressing as planned. When hiring a project manager, develop an accurate job description and involve several team members in the interviews and decision.

Conduct Well-Organized Meetings and Prioritize Your Budget

Nurses are highly organized, so use that skill to prepare an agenda and minutes for all meetings and make them available via a secure website so the team has access to all processes and outcomes. This enables you to document all activities pertaining to the study or trial. Meeting agendas should include the study aims, processes, and achievements, as well as check-in items such as budget and current priorities, even if there is nothing new to discuss yet.

Pay Attention to Group Relationships, Listen Well, and Express Gratitude Often

Because team members’ relationships can affect the clinical trial or study, promote a positive atmosphere by making time for fun and celebrating individual and team accomplishments. For example, send notes of encouragement when someone comes up with a great idea or solves a problem, or plan to get together with team members who are attending the same conferences.