Working at the Academy, I am surrounded by amazing people, passionate about improving care for patients. I am humbled too by the willingness of patients to get involved in research to support the development of healthcare services. Every day I am inspired and motivated to go the extra mile.
Despite being a part of all this amazingness, I rarely take the time to reflect on the work that I’m doing and what I’ve achieved. I dread being the centre of attention and I certainly wouldn’t volunteer to step into the spotlight. And up until now I haven’t had to.
A few weeks ago I received an email announcing that I had been shortlisted for a Wessex Clinical Research Network award for Outstanding Research Nurse. I was flabbergasted. Not only had someone taken the time to nominate me, but I had been shortlisted above others.
When my initial surprise subsided, that feeling of dread started to rise from the pit of my stomach. The email explained that I would have to attend the awards ceremony in March and that a 30 second film explaining why I had been nominated would be projected onto a supersized screen for all to see. Total nightmare!
Despite the uncomfortable nature of all of this, it got me thinking about what I had achieved since starting my position as Research Quality and Safety Manager at the Academy.
Before starting this role, I had worked as a Research Nurse in an acute trust for over five years. I was used to seeing research participants on wards and in the clinic, all neatly located in one building. So, when I joined Solent, a community trust, I found it hard at first to think outside the confines of the four hospital walls.
One of the first studies I set up and led investigated the different types of bacteria carried in the upper airways of the general public, and resistance to commonly prescribed antibiotics. I needed to work out how I was going to recruit over 1000 participants of all ages from across the Trust’s geography, representative of the local community – and not just those who were unwell and attending hospital.
A community trust spans so much more than the wards and clinics I was used to. Its services visit people at home, at school, in care homes, in homeless persons’ centres, in churches and in children’s centres. It became clear that we needed to align the study to the services the Trust provides to enable us to reach people that we needed. As a result we created a new way of working: taking research to the participants, rather than relying on them to come to us.
Co-ordinating a study that spanned a vast number of services over a disparate geographical spread was no mean feat. We had to co-ordinate staff to attend health visitor baby checks, parents’ evenings, care homes, rehabilitation wards, sexual health clinics, GP practices and many more services, to seek out volunteers to take part in the study. We then had to make sure that the swabs and data collected made it back to the lab within 24 hours of being taken.
In the end it was a huge success, recruiting 1071 participants in just six months. Consequently, the team of researchers that designed the study are now keen to bring similar studies to us in the future. We also built good relationships with our community partners, such as schools and care homes, which have expressed an interest in working with us again. The results are nearly ready to be shared and I’m looking forward to letting everyone know what we found.
While being nominated may have made me feel particularly uncomfortable, it has encouraged me to take stock of what we have achieved as a team and has reinforced the importance of recognising the great work we do day in, day out. I really couldn’t have achieved what I have without the hard work of the people around me. With this in mind, I would like to thank the willing members of the public who took part; the children in the schools whose curiosity for science and understanding of how their participation could help others in the future was outstanding; the clinical teams who were generous with their time to understand the aims of the study and enable our team to set up alongside their service; and my colleagues who were there beside me every step of the way.