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Nurse profile: Research nurse

What is your background in the NHS?
My background lies in adult nursing, specialising in urology and oncology. I qualified in 2002 from Kingston University in London and started working at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in 2002 as a staff nurse at the urology department. I now work solely as a research nurse.

How did you get into the research nurse role?
I always thought I would like to be a research nurse, but wasn't sure of the requirements. While working in oncology we would administer and handle a lot of trial drugs and chemotherapy. I became involved with trial drugs and that gave me an indication as to how I would make the transition from staff nurse to research nurse. I worked initially at St Bartholomew's Hospital as a research nurse for the North London Cancer Network. I then got a job with the research nurse agency.

What interests you the most about working as a research nurse?
Working in oncology you are dealing with certain treatments for cancer that change a lot and I wanted to know why the combinations were different, and what the reasons were for drugs developing and changing.

There was a research nurse working in my hospital who was with an agency and she seemed to really love her job. It made me wonder if I would like to do a similar role and a year later I decided to investigate making that change.

What requirements did the agency have?
I sent them my CV and due to my previous experience of research nursing and my Good Clinical Practice (GPC) training, which is essential for becoming a research nurse, they invited me for interview. I was successful and they offered me the job.

Which trials are you involved with at the moment?
I am currently involved with paediatric and home visit trials, administering drugs in the community to patients who are taking medication daily at home, rather than going into hospital. I have just finished one study taking blood samples as part of a cystic fibrosis trial. I am also doing a paediatric longitudinal trial collecting information for a drug at phase 4, going on to phase 5.

What are your responsibilities?
As a research nurse you have to know the protocol of where you are working, as I am supporting everyone else who is involved with the study. Coordinating the research is all down to me, so I have to know at what point the patient is at, make sure they have all their visits, blood tests, investigations and appoint- ments up to date. I have to make sure the data collection is maintained regularly, answer any queries from the nurses administering the drugs, the consultant or from the sponsor who has their own monitor, and who might have ethical queries. I have to make sure the medication is dispensed correctly, and collect the clinical data such as blood or investigation results so that when the monitor visits everything is in place. I liaise with the ethics committee and research and development department to make sure we have all the paperwork, complete any amendments they make and read any paperwork and files. I support the team and the monitoring, such as ensuring compliance for the study.

What are your working hours?
Generally it's 37.5 hours a week, but sometimes you may need to be with a patient late into the evening. We try to keep to normal everyday hours for safety reasons as we are lone workers.

What's challenging about the role?
It can be difficult going into people's homes as you don't really know what you are going to find. You can feel vulnerable.Sometimes I work with challenging groups such as teenagers who can be unpredictable. We have a policy of checking in and out for our safety and we have training for working with teenagers and children who are under 17. It's a different kind of approach and you have to employ wisdom when you are dealing with them. You have to think on the spot a lot of the time as each situation is different.

What are the the qualities needed to be a research nurse?
You need very good communications skills, as you are the hub for all communication - you are dealing with information from the sponsor, from the investigator, to the nurses, colleagues, patients and relatives. You have to relay information back and forth, verbally and non-verbally. You need good people skills, as when you are recruiting for a study you have to ensure patients can trust you and they have confidence in you. You must be able to relay information about the study clearly to avoid complex questions, so that patients can see your abilities as a nurse.

What does recruiting patients to a study involve?
I see the consultant or nurse and they advise me where to find relevant patients. I then screen patient notes and the criteria of the study. I see if there are any criteria that fit, let the consultant know I have screened and then they make the approach to the patient as the primary caregiver. The patient consents and we take over from there. The initial contact involves a lot of phone calls and it can be difficult dealing with certain groups such as teenagers and getting them involved.

Is there a study you have worked on that has been particularly interesting?
I worked on a unique study of teenage pregnancy, focusing on intervention rather than drug administration. Some girls were as young as 12 and the way in which they absorb information was different to the way that 19 year old would absorb it.
We gave teenage parents advice and support as a way of stopping them from continuing to have more pregnancies and gave advice about how to be a good parent, and how to deal with family dynamics. We directed them to areas of support in the community and their confidence grew in being able to become good parents. We are now in year two and the results should come out next year.

Do you think it's important for nurses to be involved in research?
Definitely - nurses are so closely involved with patient care and developing relationships with patients that it is useful for them to be involved with drug development and research. When you see what is happening, for example with oncology when a drug is really useful and effective in treating disease, it makes it worth- while. You need the data to release the funding to make the drug available to everyone, so it's worth it.

They keep the studies short so that they have enough data to support use of the drug and get it out there. I would recommend nurses get involved in research. You start to see things differently in practice, you aren't just administering drugs and you are more aware of developments that are taking place.