Clinical research nurses (CRNs) have a vital role in the conduct and governance of clinical trials. This article compares findings of an online survey conducted in 2012 by the Scottish Research Nurse and Coordinator's Network with two surveys undertaken ten years previously in a single Scottish Health Board, permitting analysis of the development of the CRN role. The findings show that CRNs are highly qualified and experienced. Many had access to professional development and support, while others continued to feel isolated. There is a need for a clear, flexible career structure for CRNs, with appropriate induction, training and continuous professional development.