Sandra has been a research nurse for 12 years and she currently works for the Clinical Research Network. She now works mainly on palliative care research and has a role in capacity-building for research in care homes.
Sandra is a research nurse for the Clinical Research Network. There are two main components to her current job, which she has held for about four years: one is to support palliative care research, the other is capacity-building for research in care homes. Sandra has worked in research for around 12 years and in nursing for a total of 20 years. She first sought out a research nurse job as she felt that she needed a challenge. Sandra initially worked on gastroenterology studies, an area she was knowledgeable in, and felt the move to research offered the chance to learn new skills. She started her first post on a short term contract, which she saw as an advantage: it kind of gave me a get out without feeling like I’d quit or given up. Her contract has since been renewed several times and she is now on a permanent contract.
When she began her role, Sandra found the transition challenging: I was thinking what on earth have I let myself in for‚ It was a bit chaotic in the respect of I didn’t really enjoy not knowing what I was going to do. Although she did not receive much formal training at this time, Sandra shadowed colleagues to gain a feel for how it works. She found some aspects of the role difficult to adjust to, including data administration. There were lots of boring bits and periods of time when Sandra did not have much patient contact. However, as she began to take on new studies, Sandra started enjoying the role and decided to stay in research. She discovered other things that I enjoyed, so the health promotion and also the fact that I was making a difference for tomorrow, not just for today.
Sandra is involved in recruiting patients to studies and ensuring that they are fully informed about what participation involves. Depending on the study, she visits patients either in their home or at the hospital, takes blood samples and assists with questionnaires as well as inputting or processing the data collected. During home visits in particular, Sandra is able to spend time with patients, talking to them about treatment options and offering advice. This is something she really enjoys about her role: those kind of bits were the bits that actually made it more exciting for me‚ Giving that one-to-one back to someone was a real privilege. Sandra has a research facilitation role too, which involves her supporting other research nurses as well as talking to care organisations about why research is important.
Maintaining good relationships is important to Sandra. For example, she feels well-supported by her line managers and has regular contact with the study teams she works with, both of whom she can approach with questions and suggestions. She works hard to maintain good and trusting relationships with the clinical nurses responsible for the care of participants, which can help the research run smoothly: they can see that I’ve put the patient first. However, she finds that some health professionals are less keen to engage their patients in research. She thinks this reluctance sometimes comes from a fear that patients will be overburdened. However, Sandra feels it is important that patients can decide this for themselves, and has invested a lot of energy talking about why research is important… We must give people a choice. She tries to manage patient expectations around receiving findings from research. Although Sandra is proactive with chasing up results from studies she has been involved with, this can be a long process.
Sandra feels that passion and planning are central qualities of a good research nurse, as well as communication and organisational skills. Sandra emphasises that patient wellbeing must be at the forefront when recruiting for studies: you have to be careful, some patients are so willing to help that they’re doing it because they want to help me and not because they want to help themselves. Similarly, she thinks language or literacy problems can be a barrier for some. Sandra feels strongly about enabling research participation for these individuals. She tries to use accessible language and explain concepts in a way people can understand: even if they can’t read, it shouldn’t mean that they can’t take part, as long as I feel they’ve clearly understood all the facts and understand and can give their consent. In the future, Sandra plans to continue working in research. She feels that she has more to give in her career, but is not sure where this will take her. She would like to continue developing research capacity in areas where this is not yet well-established, including the health of prison populations.