Clinical research nurses are at the frontline of clinical research and they act as nurse leaders in the area of patient-orientated research. The purpose of the study was to explore and describe the experiences of clinical research nurses’ self-leadership role in nursing practice in nursing units in the southern suburbs of Cape Town, Western Cape Province. A phenomenological, exploratory, descriptive, and contextual design was followed. The population consisted of all the clinical research nurses (n = 22) at Western Cape hospitals and health care institutions in the southern suburbs. Purposive sampling was applied according to selection criteria and unstructured individual interviews were conducted until data saturation occurred. Data was analysed by using
the methods of open coding and data triangulation. Self-leadership of the clinical research nurse indicated four themes; (i) an initial tedious and daunting experience, (ii) in which collaborative action was pursued, (iii) with certain personal traits, and (iv) self-leadership behaviour. The findings emphasised that the clinical research nurses’ experienced their self-leadership role in nursing as an evolutionary process. This evolutionary role required that they needed to develop strategies with the purpose of surviving the initial tedious and daunting phase that facilitated the development of skills needed for collaborative partnerships with stakeholders. As general confidence increases, the clinical research nurse is able to recognise her professional attributes
and use self-leadership behaviour to enhance her daily practice. Appropriate self-leadership behaviour would assist the clinical research nurse to successfully navigate the complex, yet dynamic clinical research environment.