Sian has been a research nurse for seven years, and has worked mostly on primary care studies. Sian enjoys many aspects of her job, including the contact with patients and opportunities to mentor research nurses new to the role or starting in a new context.
Sian has worked in nursing for 28 years, with the last seven years as a research nurse. Before coming to research, Sian was a district nurse, which she really enjoyed. She decided to move jobs as she was ready for something new. When a colleague mentioned research nursing, it was like a lightbulb moment. Initially, Sian started working in primary care research alongside her role as a district nurse.
Although she did not know what to expect when she began research nursing, Sian felt that this move was a natural progression as there were aspects of the role that were similar to her past experiences: it was really lovely just to have that sort of transition over from the same place to the same place but doing something completely different with a whole new language. Although she did not receive much initial training, Sian was able to shadow colleagues when beginning her role in research. Nonetheless, there were aspects that Sian found challenging, such as getting used to the terminology and acronyms used. However, Sian reflects on the fact that she has learnt new skills since being in research, from working with patients with mental health needs, to conducting electrocardiograms (ECGs). This is one thing Sian likes about her role: all these things are new, innovative and fresh and keep me focused and enjoying my job.
Sian is a lead nurse on several studies, which she project manages. In her role, Sian visits patients in their homes but also carries out research in surgeries. When she contacts patients about research opportunities, she explains the study and goes through their concerns before taking consent. Sian also collects and inputs data, which could include answers to questionnaires or measurements of BMI and bone density. As well as communicating with patients, Sian liaises with other stakeholders such as sponsors and the staff in sites where she works. Maintaining high standards of care remains crucial to Sian: the research is really, really important to me but my patient’s needs are first and foremost. For example, if she discovers a medical problem, she signposts the participant to an appropriate service. Sian enjoys developing relationships with patients, particularly when they come back and participate in further studies: that’s always really rewarding because you always think well we must have done okay then’.
Sian feels that being able to put the needs of the patient first is an important characteristic for a research nurse, as are strong listening skills. Sian also mentions the need to communicate with different stakeholders and consider their expectations. She finds that having a manager who is a nurse has been really helpful, as this helps ensure that research and nursing kind of fits snuggly together like a glove rather than it being friction. Being employed by a Clinical Research Network means that Sian meets other research nurses at monthly meetings, where they can discuss different studies. Sian also goes to annual meetings where she can meet individuals from other fields. This is an experience Sian really values: I love to network and meet new people, see if there’s something new I can learn from them. Sian also mentors a research nurse who transitioned from working in secondary to primary care: I really enjoy sort of bringing people in and teaching them about the role and then seeing them sort of go off and fly and do what they do.
Sian finds that there can be challenges in her role. For example, patients language and literacy can be a barrier to recruiting to studies. Similarly, Sian has had to turn away an individual with learning difficulties due to issues around consent. Sian finds such situations a little bit tough, but emphasises the importance to adhering to the exclusion criteria. In the past, Sian found dealing with serious adverse events to be difficult. However, over time, she has learnt to respond to these situations with more confidence as she has gained experience in the field.
Sian predicts that in the future, research nursing will adapt’ with the times, for example by using social media to recruit participants. She thinks research nurses will have to adapt their practices in line with these broader changes. Sian hopes that the future will also see more opportunities for ethnically diverse groups to be included in research: I would love to see more studies like that to engage people from whatever their background is.