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Starting a new Research Nurse role in lockdown

Caitlin Burchett

I started my new job as a Research Nurse at the end of February, just a few weeks before we all went in to lockdown.

It was an exciting few weeks of meeting the lovely Research and Improvement team, learning all about their wide and varied roles, and finding out about all current studies. I was also learning about the potential future studies within older people’s mental health (OPMH), which is what I’d joined the team to do. I had barely gotten my head around the new IT systems, the tons of acronyms, and which drawer the biscuits are hidden away in, when Coronavirus meant we all had to go home. I felt a bit lost then.

My job is a ‘split role’ (I work three days a week in research, and two on an OPMH ward) and having had some ward experience from previous positions, I was really excited to experience the research side of the job. I’d been looking forward to being a part of making new discoveries, improving the way things are done, the ‘big picture’ stuff. But as research studies into anything other than Covid-19 had pretty much ground to a halt, my focus has definitely been more on the clinical side of my new role, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at just how much satisfaction and joy I’ve experienced from this.

The ward I work on is for people with dementia, as well as ‘functional diagnoses’ such as depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The team have been amazing and I’ve learnt so much from more experienced nurses and other healthcare workers. Although Coronavirus has definitely presented the ward with numerous challenges, and caused a lot of anxiety among both patients and staff, there have still been lots of little moments during each shift that I’ve found myself feeling grateful for.

It’s the small things that I find most rewarding – supporting patients to take their medication, helping them get ready for bed, re-locating misplaced shoes/glasses/hearing aids, listening to them reminisce about their families and friends, even cutting fingernails! It’s in those tiny moments that I feel I can make the biggest difference to patients’ experiences, just by being fully present, giving space and time, and trying to understand what is most important to the person in that moment.

I can’t wait to get fully stuck into my research role again, but I hope I’ll continue to reflect on these ‘small picture’ moments when I do.