Aims To synthesise the available body of qualitative studies relating to clinical research nurses' experiences of their role. Methods A systematic search of the literature in five databases was undertaken: CINAHL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PubMed and ProQuest. Thomas and Harden's three-stage approach to thematic analysis was followed using the ENTREQ statement for reporting. Results Nineteen studies reported in 20 papers (with a total of 232 nurses) were included in the synthesis. Three analytical themes with six subthemes were identified as follows: "identity"; "meeting targets"; and "patient advocate." Conclusions Clinical research nurses experience isolation, and contributing to this is their perception of nonresearch nurses' lack of understanding for their role. This can result in difficulties when recruiting study participants. Clinical research nurses can experience internal conflict between being a patient advocate and adhering to a trial protocol. Relevance to clinical practice Training is needed to help research nurses develop skills to face challenges in order to ensure safe and ethical care is provided to research participants while also ensuring high-quality data collected for the study.