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Step into my shoes: The career of a Senior Research Nurse

Jo Turpitt

Senior Research Nurse, Jo Turpitt, tells us about her career journey...

I started my research career in London in the late 90’s - research in the NHS back then was a rarity and not everyday business like it is today. I was a Sexual Health Nurse working with HIV/AIDS patients and many young people were literally dying before our eyes. At the time there was no treatment for HIV/AIDS; we were dealing with a virus that wasn’t fully understood and presented massive clinical and research challenges. As Health Care Professionals, we felt helpless.

A turning point came when research indicated that new drug combinations were shown to halt the progression of HIV/AIDS. Patients were literally queuing up to take part, as the only way to get access to this lifesaving treatment was on a clinical trial. Even though these drug combinations stopped the virus taking control, they were not problem free and patients had to take numerous tablets, several times a day, often with terrible side effects.

I made the decision to move on to Oncology research and spent time working on different cancer trials, but after 13 years, I find myself back working in Sexual Health. Only, HIV looks very different to the way it did 20 years ago; it's now seen as a chronic manageable condition. HIV treatment has gotten better and better - it's more effective, and easier to take and tolerate; now an entire regimen can be taken in a single pill once a day and with minimal side effects.

I am currently working on a HIV prevention study called, The PrEP IMPACT Trial. PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, which is a pill taken before sex to prevent HIV transmission. Trials have shown that taking PrEP daily can reduce the risk of getting HIV through sex by over 90% in high risk groups. It's thought that PrEP will slow the transmission of HIV and we're already beginning to see the number of new infections falling in the UK.

Would I recommend Research Nursing as a career? Definitely! Having worked in the research field for 20 years, I have been lucky enough to be involved in many cutting-edge trials that have led to new and often life changing treatments. I have felt honoured to have been involved with so many patients who have volunteered for trials, often with no direct benefit to themselves, except for giving something back and helping future generations. Research is at the heart of evidence-based healthcare and improving patient outcomes.

About the author

I am a Senior Research Nurse, responsible for the line management of our research practitioners in Southampton. I am also responsible for the set-up and delivery of Sexual Health trials across the Trust. Engagement is also a big part of my role, involving doctors, nurses and patients in why research is important.