I started my career as a Sexual Health Nurse in the 90's and have worked in research for more than 20 years. As the Senior Research Nurse at Solent I've heard people say that they think being a Research Nurse is all about paperwork, data entry and loitering outside clinic rooms. Whilst there is an element of "admin" in research nursing, it is also multi-faceted and here’s why…
We often meet patients and their families under very difficult circumstances, for example, they may have a health condition that means one of their potential treatment options may be joining a clinical trial. Over-and-above the practical side of enabling individuals to be part of a study, we also provide emotional support; making sure they fully understand what is involved, as well as the risks and the benefits. It might be that a clinical trial is not for them and that is when we advocate on behalf of our patients about their decision, and the alternative options they might have available to them.
I've also had people say to me that you lose patient contact when you become a Research Nurse, but that's simply not true. You may see fewer patients, but research enables you to focus 100% on the participant and see them through their trial journey; from receiving informed consent, up until the point that the study is completed.
The safety and well-being of our study participants in one of the most important elements of being a Research Nurse. We are responsible for monitoring vital signs, taking bloods, administering trial medication and reporting any side effects, ensuring our participants are safe at all times. Additionally, the path of a clinical trial doesn’t always run smoothly. So, being able to identify issues early on and problem-solve rapidly, is key to overcoming barriers and ultimately contributing to the success of a study.
One of the hardest parts of the job is getting buy in from clinicians. In order to embed research in all aspects of patient care, you have to act as an agent for change. To be able to do this you need to educate clinical colleagues, be proactive, have excellent influencing skills and sometimes, just sheer persistence! It's essential to develop and maintain good working relationships with our teams, as without their support, our research cannot take place.
Being a Research Nurse gives you a lot of autonomy compared to other areas of nursing; you need to be able to manage your own time, prioritise and pay attention to detail. The role is so varied, and each day is different. One day you might be doing essential paperwork but the next day you could be at a child’s play group recruiting to a study, attending a service team meeting, or giving a presentation to colleagues informing them about why research is important. No day is the same, but that's part of the beauty of the Research Nurse role.