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Case study: 60 seconds with... Jo-Anne Taylor

In celebration of International Nurses Day, we caught up with Jo-Anne Taylor, Head of Research at East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust and former Lead Clinical Research Nurse.

Jo-Anne, what does a typical day look like for a clinical research nurse?

As clinical research nurse, one of my main tasks on a day to day basis was to screen patients in hospital to see whether they’re eligible for a clinical trial. If the patient is suitable, I organised an information session with a doctor or the research nurse and obtain consent from the patient. From the very first point of contact, I organised the care of the patient, all the way through their treatment. Once their trial treatment has finished, I kept in touch with the patient to undertake trial follow up – often for many years.

Research nurses have an important job in making sure that clinical trials are able to be delivered within a hospital setting, bridging the gap between clinical trial centres and academic university trials.

What's the best part of being a clinical research nurse?

There’s several parts I love. One of the things I enjoyed the most was building long term relationships with my patients. When you’re a nurse on a hospital ward, your patients will come and go for their treatments, and sometimes you won't see those patients again. However, being a research nurse, you build up long term relationships. If you’re caring for a cancer or haematology patient for example, you may still be following up with them in 20 years time. You have the ability to meet the patient at the very start of their treatment when they’ve just received their diagnosis, and you’re with them along their journey through the good and difficult times, right through to when their treatment has ended and you are following up.

It’s was also very rewarding to be able to help give patients the opportunity to experience life achievements through trial medication. These are the kind of things that are really powerful and mean so much to you as a person and a nurse.

Another part I enjoyed was when you see treatments on a clinical trial go from beyond a trial to become a widely adopted standard of care. You get a sense of pride from being on that journey to make it happen.

What is the most challenging part about your job?

The most challenging part for me was trying to break down the myths and barriers of research, as it can be perceived that research is difficult and will take up a lot of time.

Many people would believe the hardest part is when a patient that you’ve built a relationship with over the years comes to the end of their treatment journey. But, I think as a research nurse, you’ve been able to give that patient more opportunities and access to drugs that they wouldn’t have received if they weren’t involved in research, so you’ve really improved their quality of life. It can be difficult at times, but also so rewarding.

What advice would you give to somebody considering becoming a clinical research nurse?

I think it’s really important to spend some time talking to and shadowing research nurses. The role is very different to a ward or clinic nurse, and I think that people do not have a true understanding of what the role is about. A lot of people believe a research nurse needs to be very academic and understand how to do data analysis and write dissertations and so on, which isn’t the case. However it’s really important to break down these myths - if you’re wanting to pursue this as a career, come and talk to the team about what we do in practice.

Ask yourself: what drives you as a nurse? If the answer is to be hands-on and patient-facing every single day, then research nursing might not be for you. However, if the answer is moving medicine forward and making change, then research nursing could be for you.